The Games and Sitecore Project World Paralleled – Closing Ceremonies

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Closing Ceremonies

The Olympic closing ceremonies are upon us.  I’m blogging while watching.  It’s a celebration of personal and national triumphs that have kept sports enthusiasts glued to their viewing device each afternoon/evening since August 5.  The cauldron is extinguished and ceremoniously given to the next summer host, Tokyo.  So many interesting events have transpired. I’ve gained a newfound respect for the archery teams.  Every. arrow. counts.  And I hadn’t watched handball before but how cool is it when those women leap and arch in the air and whip that mini-soccer ball into the goal?

The nation teams get their last chance to proudly wave their flag and say ‘tchau’ and ‘obrigado’ to the host country, Rio.  A celebration and then calm … and rest.

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Project launch

It’s time to celebrate the project launch!  It’s a success!  At times, the days before the launch get a bit intense … inevitably, the client is wondering if things are going to be wrapped up and ready as they promised their executives.  The project dev team is busy tying up loose ends and catching last-minute bugs.  It always comes together in the end.

While the client continues to celebrate the successful launch, the project team is busy with their post-mortem meeting. Questions are answered to ensure that any trials and tribulations are documented as a guide for the next Sitecore project.  Here are some good starters:

  • What did you learn from this project?
  • How was the teamwork?
  • Name some big wins that kept the team motivated?
  • What was helpful to get the project to launch on-time?
  • What hindered project progress and how can we avoid it in the future?
  • Given a chance to start over, what would you do differently?
  • Was the client involved enough in the process?
  • What were the gotchas when going live?

The International Olympic Committee is putting Rio down in the books and starting on PyeongChang (winter).  In the agency world, we can think of the next Olympics as the maintenance period of the project.  If the client opted for a warranty and maintenance period, the agency can continue to maintain the server and the application for the near future.  The agency baton is handed off from the project team to the maintenance team. Success.

IMAGES COURTESY OF: RVLSOFT/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

 

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The Games and Sitecore Project World Paralleled – Part 6

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Execution

In some Olympic events, 100% precision and accuracy with no room for error means winning the medal(See Cruel Olympic false start rule).

For other events, there is a little leeway.

For instance, in tennis, during the serve, a player is given two chances to get the ball in to the right part of the opponent’s court to start the point.

In some of the track and field events, the individual has multiple tries to get his/her best score; like shot put.

Although Olympic golf doesn’t allow a mulligan, this is another sport that, in casual settings, gives you another try.

Is perfection the best expectation during the Sitecore project development?

Bugs and Testing

So, here I am attempting to make a case for expecting and seeing bugs while you, as a client, are performing user acceptance testing of the functionality.

First, there’s the psychological element …  if you don’t come across any bugs while testing the initial pieces of functionality, complacency and routine inevitably sets in while checking the remaining work and bugs can be missed.

I once worked with a quality assurance person who would high-five himself and exclaim “In your face!” when he found a bug.  I more or less embraced his proclamations as it challenged me to be a better coder.

An ancient 90’s wall poster, “Pobody’s Nerfect” pops in my head while on this topic. There are studies declaring that software should have no more than 15-50 bugs per 1000 lines of code. Bugs are inevitable and reporting them accurately in the bug defect tracker of choice is important.  Guidelines or training should be provided showing to how to properly (and thoroughly) log a bug.

There are a multitude of reasons why a bug occurs.  One common source is related to the requirements documentation.  The bug can be a result of the analyst not documenting a requirement thoroughly or a developer misinterpreting the requirements.

There’s also the client-missed requirements which are often considered bugs but may be more appropriately labeled as a Feature Request not yet defined or scoped.

While the bug count should be minimized during user acceptance testing, expect to give some mulligans and second serves.

IMAGES COURTESY OF: RVLSOFT/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

The Games and Sitecore Project World Paralleled – Part 5

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Teamwork

It’s time for the athletes to shine; to apply what has been engrained in them for the majority of their life.  It all boils down to these moments, these series of events, a single match-up.  The athletes are trained to work either as a deliberate single unit or on a unified team, as a well-oiled machine, depending on the sport.  A quality performance is expected from both.

In outsourcing a Sitecore project, you may have the option to choose from working with freelance contractors or an agency.  Both options can fill your project with professionals that have been trained to do what they do their entire career.

However, choosing a reputable agency to implement your Sitecore solution over a handful of independent contractors has many advantages; the obvious being that you are assured that your project will be executed in a well-oiled machine. This minimizes the overhead of establishing a common ground for the project and its functions.

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Also, with an agency you not only are receiving the expert knowledge of the team assigned to your project but also the agency as a whole.  Good agencies will have avenues that allow their engineers to share knowledge across project team.  Be sure to ask about this when vetting an agency.

When striving for the gold on your next project, consider this extra benefit of hiring an agency.

 IMAGES COURTESY OF: RVLSOFT/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

The Games and Sitecore Project World Paralleled – Part 4

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The Work

The Olympic spirit is best expressed with the Olympic Creed:

“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”

 What does this creed have to do with project work?  This is the cornerstone of  why I am an engineer. This creed is saying that hard work is ultimately the reward.
A good Sitecore agency believes this.  Of course, the client’s satisfaction (the triumph) at the end of the project is paramount but that’s not what keeps the successful team members.  The engineers, the design team, business analysts, the leadership must embrace the struggle that is inevitable in the course of the project.  This is how we learn; this is how we grow; this makes the team a strong group; a group worth hiring.

“In a time of rapid change, standing still is the most dangerous course of action.”
– Brian Tracy

Consider the Olympic struggle as a natural function of a team member in a project.
Images courtesy of: rvlsoft/Shutterstock.com

The Games and Sitecore Project World Paralleled – Part 3

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Behind the Scenes

The host city logistics of organizing the Olympic Games is astounding. There is the Village to construct, each athletic venue and location, the ticketing, security, the personnel, the marketing, and then throw a little Zika into the mix … this year and the last Olympics were full of controversy and, according to the media, were even close to not happening.(Sochi, Rio)

A Sitecore project can begin to feel like this … overwhelming and maybe, not going to be executed.  Fear not!

Project Preparation

For a client, beginning a new Sitecore project can be daunting, yes.  The key is having a project team that has quality leadership and demonstrated experience to execute.  It can run like a fine-tuned machine.  And regardless of the expertise, there will be hiccups.  The key is to understand that, while they are expected to be minimized, obstacles happen and a good team will navigate around them.

Like the Olympics, the project involves much preparation: creating an initial environment and setting up the servers for each step of the project life cycle (venues), executing the authorization and authentication required (ticketing/security), ensuring that the proper team members are included (personnel), inventing the most appealing design to entice people (marketing)…

So what’s the ‘Zika’ of a Sitecore project and how do you prevent it?  To me, it can be the perceived lack of confidence in a project team.  This tends to happen with inexperienced agencies, junior teams or ones where the client chooses to be more hands off.  When a client inflates a project misstep or misinterprets a situation, it can disrupt and potentially derail a project.

A successful project team has rhythmic communication with the client and is transparent with every step. If something goes awry, the client is involved in making decisions to fixing the issue, if needed.  If not, the client is fully aware of situations that may hinder the progress of the project and works with leadership to rectify.

Sharing the project experience with the client and having them be an active member of the team is key.  The relationship between the agency and client will have no choice but to move forward as one leaving any lack of confidence behind.

Images courtesy of: rvlsoft/Shutterstock.com

The Games and Sitecore Project World Paralleled – Part 2

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Opening Ceremony

Checking out the cool, and, yeah, sometimes downright goofy, uniforms during the parade of nations, the fanfare, the folly … I love the Summer Olympic Games Opening Ceremonies.  I also get a kick out of the biased US television coverage that I now notice. Several years ago, I was backpacking through Australia and New Zealand during the Games and would sneak a peak at the events in each hostel. But, I hunkered down in a communal room of one hostel for the opening ceremony. It struck me how differently the Aussies televised the opening ceremonies compared to American television.  Of course there was plenty of focus on the Aussie athletes but I remember very few cuts to commercials, and that American tendency to disregard smaller nations.  Aside from Australia, all nations seemed to have equal billing. The paid advertising was of much less importance than allowing the viewer to feel a part of the ceremony.  Hm.

But I digress … on to the project world …

The Project Kickoff

There’s much to say about participating in a Project Kick-off with a client.  Like the opening ceremony, everyone is optimistic, a bit nervous, but anxious to get started.  There are virtual fireworks and getting to know one another, excitement in the air. One project of mine even included team building exercises for some client/project team bonding (we actually had competitions at the beach).

I think I can relate to the athletes enjoying that evening gala … the end of the kick-off means it’s time to get to work.  Time to focus on the upcoming weeks, the monumental tasks to conquer, the precision and expertise required.  It’s time to put all that previous experience and training into force.  Time to apply best Sitecore practices, coding standards, and develop a rhythm with the client.

The team’s focus is not only on the application, but the hardware on which the application lives.  Here are some questions that will be answered around project kick-off time.  Most often this is done during Technical Discovery:

  • Where will the servers be hosted?  Azure or on-premise?
  • Who will own the servers?
  • Who will manage the servers post-launch?
  • How many environments (development, quality assurance, staging, etc) will there be?
  • How many content delivery servers will exists in production?
  • Will the site take advantage of Sitecore’s Experience Marketing system?
  • If so, are there servers to hold Mongo DB or will it be in the cloud?
  • Will there be a processing server?
  • What’s the redundancy/recovery plan?
  • Is there a need for a custom database?
  • What Sitecore third party modules are needed?
  • What version of Sitecore should be implemented?
  • What is the search/index strategy? What number of servers are needed for performance and redundancy?
  • Is this a co-development project (client IT participates)?
  • Where is the source code stored during/after the project?
  • What is the maintenance plan post-launch?

It may be clear that bringing in an experienced project team makes sense.  There are many decisions to be made; why not bring in a team who can ask the right questions to get your application off the ground?

Back to that tv room in the multi-national hostel … I remember how special it was to be a part of several nations’ celebratory moment during the parade of nations.  Some groups were shy, some were annoyingly boisterous (read: Americans) but each corner of the room had their moment of pride. Very cool.

Images courtesy of: rvlsoft / Shutterstock.com