Thursday, June 09, 2005

To De-Feature or Not

Worked continued at a frenetic pace through February, although it became more apparent at the end of each day there were less days remaining than the amount of work. Still, we pushed forward with our double-shift days.

I found some solace, oddly, in winning trinkets on eBay auctions. At least it took my mind off of other things for a few minutes. The actual thrill was probably more in bidding at the last second than in buying anything. I sniped in with two seconds left and won a weather station (thermometer, barometer, hydrometer). It arrived with the dials permanenty set to 74° F, 30.5 inches and 30% humidity. But it looked nice so I hung it on the wall anyway. My auctioneering activities won me a reminder from Antonia that such pursuits had a very low wife acceptance factor.

Around mid-month even the most optimistic of the project backers could see the writing on the wall, so a meeting was called to de-feature the program for a workable, but not as comprehensive, demo. Victor asked the most senior engineer, a 20-year employee, to sit in on the meeting and help make the difficult decisions.

I made up a list of about 65 major features that we were working on and asked everyone which ones we should pull out for the demo. We went over nearly every one, and each time someone voiced a reason why that particular feature should stay in.

Example:
Me: Okay, how about Shuttle Test on the Microwave sensor screen
Someone 1: Oh, no. We need that if we're going to have Microwave.
Someone 2: If we pull that out we'd have to pull out Activate Shuttle as well.
Someone 1: Yeah, we can't do that.
Me: Okay, we'll leave it in. How about Tolerance on the Pattern screens?
Someone 3: Wait, we can't pull that out!
Et cetera.

About an hour and a half later, we ended the meeting. We had pulled out exactly two and a half features.

Still, timelines and features aside, I thought the project was looking up. Some major pieces were starting to fit together and we were making very good progress. We still weren't going to be anywhere close to our deadline, but we were making progress.