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A Noisy Project

The project was to build a middleware business object server and its accompanying business objects. A large financial institution wanted to develop the product to connect its online transactions to its legacy databases. The institution needed to handle increasing transaction volumes, to standardize database access, and to carry out the implementation of new technologies such as telephone, wireless, and handheld input devices. This technology was all devastatingly complicated, including choices and learning curves for object technology, transaction management, hardware, operating systems, and development environments. To complicate matters, this was a technically sophisticated company, so proponents for various alternatives to each technology choice were numerous and vociferous. Furthermore, team members were working at multiple locations, and the team therefore needed to use a multi-site development environment technology. It had chosen to use ClearCase code management software, but had not yet begun to do so.

The project was truly hellish. A development team had been chartered and charged. When I first began working with the team, it had been in existence for four months, but had not built any product. It was waiting for its own budget. It was waiting for funding for new servers, for the last team members to be assigned, for ClearCase Enterprise to be licensed, and for someone who knew how to use ClearCase to be hired.

To begin implementing Scrum, I started holding Daily Scrum meetings. These meetings are supposed to be quick status updates. This was not the case at these Daily Scrums. The first meeting took three hours, rather than the customary fifteen minutes. Everyone was completely dispirited and demoralized. Team members talked not about what they were doing, but about what was preventing them from doing anything. Many people complained that management didn't support the project, and everyone was upset that the budget hadn't been formalized. Without a budget, the team couldn't order servers or license ClearCase. For that matter, the team couldn't attract new team members, since it looked as though it was going nowhere fast. The team was without funding, without a sponsor, and without the tools that it needed.

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