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Michael Smith: I am talking with Shlomy Gantz in New York about his talk on "Managing ColdFusion Projects" at CFUN-04. What kind of project problems have you seen?
Shlomy Gantz: Well, Every time I say "I've seen them all," a completely new problem appears. The most common problem is a project that has "stretched" beyond the original timeline, with no end in sight. The second most common project problem I’ve encountered is a communications breakdown, when the client loses confidence in the developer’s ability to deliver the product. Surprisingly, the majority of projects problems are caused lack of planning and communication, NOT because of lack of technical competency.
MS: That is surprising - until I saw the statistics on project failures I would have thought that technical problems were the big issue. Why do you think that lack of planning and communication cause so many "disaster projects"?
SG: Well, Imagine driving a super fancy sport car aimlessly in the desert, with no roads or maps to guide you. It might be fun, but it doesn't get you anywhere.
Over the years the software industry has struggled to develop and apply standards. The famous cliché used to be "Plan the work, and work the plan," but in reality IT DID NOT WORK. Plans were too rigid and programmers were buried under mountains of useless documentation and plans. A big disconnect was created between the developers trying to get the code to work, and "Dilbert"-like managers who insisted on extensive planning and endless meetings. Neither developers nor Managers were "speaking the same language".
MS: That sounds frightening... what happened then?
SG: Developers and Managers alike soon realized that the huge cost of traditional planning and often poor results were an indication that a change was needed. A change in the way we plan software and in the way we manage the development process.
MS: What kind of changes?
SG: Most of all, a change in priorities and focus. For instance, lets take a painful subject such as "Documentation." I have always been a strong advocate of documentation, but not at the expense of functioning software. We have all seen these thick heavy binders filled with useless information, stacked up on our desk. Large companies are starting to realize that good documentation is a lot more fluid and flexible. Can you imagine not having online searchable ColdFusion docs?
MS: No! So what is the documentation answer for successful projects?
SG: You'll just have to come to the presentation and find out!
MS: You are on! See you at CFUN.