The scenario: Weekly status meeting for a software project contracted to a software development company. Scheduled duration is 2 hours. All stakeholders present.
The story: Wilma, the secretary sends out an appointment to all the stakeholders and books a conference room. She forgets to send the agenda but never fails to order coffee and bagels. People file in at ten past nine for the 9 O’clock. Roger, the project manager, (contracted vendor) introduces the participants for the 5th time in four weeks. He remembers everyone’s names. He has to, for he bills $250 an hour.
Meg, the lady from the business unit comes in late uttering the usual words “I had to go to another meeting”. Actually she got late because she was talking with her girl friend about her cat’s diarrhea.
Roger, the project manager reiterates that he wants everyone to speak up and question stuff, no matter how stupid it could be. He has that fake earnest smile as he says, “There are no foolish questions” and he mumbles to himself, “…Only stupid people”. He then puts up a colorful slide of a mock-screen.
The dumbest of all, Annie the business area expert (basically, the most available person from the business unit who is scared of computers) talks first. She points out, “Oh! Oh! In the third sentence “seperate” should be spelled “separate”. Her equally dumb, walking partner, Anthony, the guy who hogs the bagels, chimes in to say, “Yeah! The font is small”. The project manager graciously accepts to change that.
One of the end-users wants to have two flags with two statuses each. Chang, the super normalized database manager steps in and says, “We should have one flag with 4 statuses”. He argues about size. That 4-foot-9 guy wants to keep everything short. Even the records.
Samantha, the business unit manager says, “I want to see data for all the products, in columns”. Sumanto, the Database Admin says, “Why don’t you all learn how to manipulate data in MS-Excel?”
Everyone can see Wilma taking down every word spoken. Or is she drawing doodles to entertain her wits?
At the one hour mark, Marie, the lady who has been sipping her tall oversized jug of water suggests, “Can we have a break?” Dhikshit (no short-forms available), the seemingly busy application developer, checks his mails in his blackberry. All he is worried about is whether that cute girl in accounting has responded to his lunch date.
Everyone returns in 15 minutes, butter up a bagel and sit down. Meg (non-technical end-user) figures how to ask the right question. She says, “I want to be able to query the data?” The insecure Dhikshit, the application developer starts explaining about Virtual Private Networks, Named pipes, Firewalls, Secure-Socket Layers, Encryption, Client-side processing and finally a report. Meg’s fire fizzles out and accepts just once in a life-time download of data.
Since most of users blamed that the fonts were small, everyone agreed it was only the projector that was causing that. Also, everyone was asked to tilt their screens to an angle of 30 degrees to better differentiate the black from the navy blue.
Roger the project manager announces that he has to leave in 5minutes. Marie and Meg say, “We too”. Wilma is asked to schedule another meeting the following week.
Pedro, the technology consultant is writing this article.
Bagels (and Cream Cheese): $52
Coffee (Regular, Decaf, Tea): $43
Human Resource costs: $4600
Time wasted: Priceless
For everything else there is “Mass Tech Con”.