Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The (Ex) Network Engineers project development guide for project "Halloween Costume"

Firstly, although unknown to most, a lot of project development ideas come from some "tinkering" previously done with no real goals. In this case it was a half-hearted attempt at a ladybug costume made on a rainy afternoon which was unfinished and left in the corner for months. The project was largely ignored and dismissed by well.. everyone.

Then out of the blue, came an unexpected "customer" request for a "special" Halloween costume. The project is hence-called "Dwarf Spotted Bulborb costume", or the "costume" for short. It's left-field, completely whacky and definitely unfeasible. This particular "customer" is an internal customer already known to the development team. "Five year old boy" (from here we will call him, "internal customer D") already has a reputation for asking the impossible and then immediately becoming bored with the idea once work has started. It was felt at this time, the request would be logged, but pretty much ignored. The likelihood that the project is ever going to amount to anything is small. There are better things to do. Best not to mention it again.

The unlikely happened. "Internal customerD" had not forgotten his previous project request and demands that it is followed through. After much re-iteration that the project is pretty much impossible, "Internal Customer D" blusters that it is essential to the working of the "family company". Without the"costume" the company will collapse after an extensive period of moaning, screaming and in the worst case scenario, throwing of toys. This was highly unlikely and the request was still refused. "Internal customer D" threatened to tell the current CEO of the company, "Granddad", about our unwillingness to consider the project. At this point the "Dwarf spotted Bulborb costume" project was the highest priority.

Negotiation immediately started on how to fund the project. Financing had to come internally and this meant cutting of other budgets. It was suggested that the "halloween party" budget was scaled down for this financial year to accommodate the new project. "Internal customer D" reminded the development team that this budget had already been agreed upon and cannot be cut for legal reasons. After much analysis it was determined that the project would be funded with the minimum that can could be scrapped from budgets, "Food", "bills" and "transport".

Now came the hiring of resources. "Dwarf Spotted Bulborb" is a legacy off-shoot from an old Nintendo game called "Pikmin". The game and consequently anything relating to the "costume" could not be sourced as a pre-existing product from the usual Halloween costume vendors; e.g. "toys'r'us", Zellers and "London Drugs". Therefore the whole project had to be developed in-house. Due to the legacy nature of "Pikmin", there were only two engineers in the "family company" that had any knowledge of "Dwarf Spotted Bulborb" and of those engineers, there was only one that had any crafting skills enabling project "costume" to go ahead. The engineer was currently working on projects, "Cooking", "cleaning", "Taxiing" and "bum wiping". The engineer was over-worked, underpaid and stressed. However, once it's confirmed that the project should take a day maybe two at the most, she agrees.

On examining the previous prototype it was felt that it would be unusable with the updated customer expectations. If the costume had to withstand maybe one party, then the previous project could be adapted. However, the new loading was now 3 perhaps 4 parties, one halloween skate and 2 hours of "trick and treating". The "costume" would also be needed throughout the year as well as being potentially used next year. Paper, string and glue were not up to the job. The job was serious and would require the finest materials. All that was available was left-over material from previous projects, thread found randomly in a cupboard and an old pillow. It was felt that there was justification to buy a sewing machine, however, the cheapest and consequently underpowered model was signed off from financing.

The engineer assigned had NO sewing machine skills, and there was no time or financial resources to send her on a training course. She could manage with the manual and some "on-hands experience".

As the project started it was clear that the engineers sewing skills were not to scratch, but as the initial work was going to be covered up with the fancy craft paintand glitter at the end, this wasn't much of a problem. As long as the product worked, how the seams looked, or how well the stitching held were not essential. As long as it looked pretty, then "Internal customer D" would be happy.

When the project progressed, the initial timeframe for completion was increased from 2 days to at least 5. The man-hours required per day were also increased, so in total the project was clearly under-resourced. The equipment budget also escalated as "internal customer D" kept making development requests and changes. Other budgets had to be cut, in fact to the point where the "family company" maybe required to downgrade the "food budget" to tinned beans and toast in the foreseeable future. The project clearly did not increase the companies stock-worth or create any new avenues of income. However it was a HUGE hit in the playground!

On completion of the project, it became apparent that the ONLY person who would understand the finished product would be "internal customer D" and as such a complex schematic of the what the product SHOULD look like had to be tagged to the "costume" as documentation, in case anyone asked the inevitable question; "What are you dressed as?"

Despite the haphazard development process, the "costume" held up well during the "3 parties, 1 halloween tea and the trick-or treating" load testing. There were a few issues with broken equipment, but these were easily solved with sticky tape and safety pins. After a little maintenance, it is clear, depsite the wishes of the development team, (who would like to see their work buried, never to see the light), that the "costume" will be around forever. In fact it is inevitable,that the project willbecome one of those legacy services that willstill be workingeven though, "Internal customer D" has outgrown the "costume" and attending parties holding beer!

As to whether a similar project will be allowed to proceed in the future. I think that depends on the forcefulness of the "internal customer D"'s arguments, and whether the development team is drunk enough to consider the future project.

For your reference, please see an attached photo of "costume" as project documentation.

and what it should have looked like!


  1. Excuse the mix of tenses... The blog was written as a "Before" and "after" situation and I have had too many glasses of wine to correct all the mistakes. They will be all noted and corrected when... I am can be bothered essentially!

  2. This is too funny and from my point of view a damn good attempt to make him look like the thing in the picture! kudos mama.

  3. That's the best costume ever! I think you did a fabulous job. I wish I could make things but any attempts are worse than my 6 yr old. She's kind of good at art/drawing but she gets that from her dad.