The New New Tool
An Alice and Bob Adventure
Bob and Alice sit in a cubicle at the end of the floor. For much of their working day they are pissed off. They are forced to do their job using a tool implemented by The Project some years ago. The Tool was an over-complex inappropriate hulk when it was selected. The Tool is made by The Big Vendor. We've all heard of The Big Vendor. They market The Tool to many industry segments and have a specialist pre-sales team for each segment. The Tool was very expensive. Because of its complexity it's hard to do simple things quickly with The Tool. To work around these inadequacies various shell scripts, macros, spreadsheets and shoe-horns have been put in place by Bob and Alice and their predecessors. Operational Change is now performed by The Tool and a hinterland of add-ons. The whole is an unmaintainable mess only understood by Alice and Bob. Upgrading the tool is now impossible because of this customisation.
But Alice and Bob get by. They've used The Tool so often that they are proficient at making Operational Change with it. Alice and Bob do not like The Tool but they understand its idiosyncrasies. There are many things that make Alice and Bob pissed off. The Tool is not all of them. Alice and Bob are not respected. They are not valued. They are isolated. The Tool and The Hinterland have given rise to The Argot, spoken only by Bob and Alice. Despite the relative simplicity of what they are required to do, others see their world as dense and impenetrable. People prefer not to invite Bob and Alice to meetings because they can be parochial and defensive. Alice and Bob do not like going to meetings because people who do not understand The Tool or The Hinterland are forever telling them how to make Operational Change more efficiently.
Conrad and Diane work in the marketing department. They see Alice and Bob as a bit of a nuisance. When Conrad and Diane ask for small changes it takes Alice and Bob far too long to implement them. And they ask for a lot of small changes. All the time. Every day. To manage this flow Alice and Bob set up the Change Request System. Conrad and Diane submit changes to a queue on the Change Request System and Alice and Bob work through the queue in priority order. Because there are lots of high priority changes, a lot of requests hang around the middle of the queue for a long time. Conrad and Diane do not like the Change Request System so they try to avoid using it whenever possible.
When there's a Really Important Requirement, Conrad and Diane walk to the cubicle at the end of the floor and ask for Operational Change to be made right away. Many times Alice and Bob will make the change. No entry is placed in the Change Request System. Alice and Bob make the Operational Change and record the details later. Marketing people who are not Conrad and Diane get annoyed when this happens because they have no transparency on how Bob and Alice are spending their time. To address this Alice and Bob sometimes extend the scope of existing changes to keep marketing people who are not Conrad and Diane happy. These types of favours never get recorded.
Operationally, what Alice and Bob do is Important Work. It is also Expensive. There is always more Operational Change needed than can be handled by The Tool. Many changes just have to be dropped. Once a month, half a day is spent reviewing the queue in the Change Request System so that Conrad and Diane can remove entries that have languished for too long. Conrad and Diane do not like The Monthly Meeting because it reminds them of all their ideas that will never be. Alice and Bob do not like The Monthly Meeting because the atmosphere in the room is always tense. Marketing people who are not Conrad and Diane do not like The Monthly Meeting because Alice and Bob are stuck in a meeting room and not making Operational Change.
Important Work that is also Expensive requires System Change. System Change is designed by The Architects.
For The Architects to contain System Change they draw a Scope Diagram. The Scope Diagram includes The Tool and The Hinterland. The Architects need to understand The Argot, which means meeting with Alice and Bob. Alice and Bob do not like going to meetings because people who do not understand The Tool or The Hinterland are forever telling them how to make Operational Change more efficiently.
To threaten The Tool or to seek to change The Hinterland or to question The Argot, is to threaten Alice and Bob. Alice and Bob are good people but nobody likes to be threatened. Alice and Bob are smart people but they have had to forgo their dreams of being able to make Operational Change swiftly and easily. They have long since compromised their desire to Add Value to Operational Change. Their world is The Tool and The Monthly Meeting. Alice and Bob do not like The Architects because The Architects have never had to make Operational Change.
The Architects see Bob and Alice as a bit of a nuisance. The Architects court the favour of Conrad and Diane and discuss The Requirements. Conrad and Diane are sensible people but years of frustrated ideas have given rise to unrealistic dreams of Operational Change That Should Be. The Requirements focus on the Operational Change That Should Be. Sometimes, in meetings, The Architects make subtle and indirect jokes about Alice and Bob to show that they are united with Conrad and Diane in a shared vision of the Operational Change That Should Be. The Architects are good people but they require the favour of Conrad and Diane to get the funding to implement the Operational Change That Should Be.
The Architects produce extensive PowerPoint diagrams showing a state they call The As Is. The As Is is a technically inaccurate representation of The Tool and The Hinterland. Next to The As Is is a list of Operational Change features that The Tool is rumoured not to do. All but one of these is incorrect. The Architects follow these slides with a state they call The To Be, which shows The New Tool from The New Big Vendor. We've all heard of the New Big Vendor. They market The New Tool to many industry segments and have a specialist pre-sales team for each segment. The specialist pre-salesman from The New Vendor has confirmed that The New Tool has a Roadmap and on this Roadmap are features that entirely encompass all the features that constitute the Operational Change That Should Be. The Roadmap is made up of extensive PowerPoint diagrams which show smiling people and beautiful photos of desert roads disappearing into the distance. There are lots of logos of other companies that have also seen The Roadmap.
The Salesman from the New Big Vendor takes Conrad and Diane to a major sporting event. The Architects invite Alice and Bob to a workshop. The workshop lasts all day. Many questions are raised and they are placed on a piece of paper called The Parking Lot. People leave the workshop tired. The Parking Lot is never heard about again. The New Big Vendor is approved by The IT Strategy Department. The New Tool is an over-complex inappropriate hulk.
The Business Case for The New Project takes shape. The Requirements are signed off by Conrad and Diane. Conrad and Diane do presentations to The People From Finance to secure funding for The New Project. They are confident that The New Tool will be a success because they share a vision with The Architects, The IT Strategy Department and The Salesman from The New Vendor. The Vision is the Operational Change That Should Be. It's a giddy vision of Immediate Change, Random Change and Unconstrained Change.
It's New Change. New Change that delivers on The Ideas.
The Ideas bring euphoric customers throwing open their wallets. The expenditure of these customers is slightly more than the cost of The New Tool over three years. There is no dissent in the room with The People From Finance. Alice and Bob are busy implementing Operational Change. The People From Finance have never heard of Alice and Bob. The People From Finance review The Roadmap for The New Tool. It doesn't make any sense to them but they see the smiling people, the roads and the logos.
The Salesman from The New Vendor leaves his brochure about a new model of Mercedes in his car and heads towards reception. He is going to a meeting during which The License Deal for The New Tool will be signed.
Alice and Bob sit in a cubicle at the end of the floor. For much of their working day they are pissed off.