Crafters seem to have “stashes” – a pile of material collected that they intend to use “some day” but that continues to grow to the point where they have too much money and space invested in materials that they haven’t used. Occasionally, crafters come up with “stashbusting” projects that “bust” the “stash.” If you think of your project that way, where you have too many things on the list of tasks (i.e., where you’ve run into “critical path” issues and/or resource blockages), it’s a little bit like that – it’s a pile of something that needs to be conquered.
Something that made me think harder about this is I just happened to be giving a potential customer advice on how to get through their resource roadblock. It is not always necessary to bring on more people. In any case, I realized my advice was basically the project version of “stashbusting.”
Idea One: Before Doing Anything Else
Recently, I stumbled across a crafter’s organizer – yes, someone who consults on just getting all your crafts organized. So, if you wondered if there’s a consultant for everything, yes, there truly is. Anyway, the first thing to do is to go through the pile and get rid of things.
Yes, that applies to your LIMS, ELN or LES project, too. Actually, you don’t need to get rid of things. But here are two things you want to do and in this order:
- Prioritize every item on the list.
- Make a second list – everything that is not a top priority goes on the second list. Call this list the “parking lot” or whatever works with your methodology. Take everything not marked “Critical” and put it on the second list. This way, you don’t look at them every time you look at your list. Sometimes, we merely hide them by filtering out the top priority items. That’s not good-enough for projects where people are constantly curious about the full list. So, what I’m saying to you, is to focus. Yes, focus and stop fiddling with all the non-essential things. That’s a crucial start.
Idea Two: The Stashbusting
So, you’re already either thinking this entire thing is silly or you’re still curious. Stay with me and think about what I’m about to say.
The general idea of stashbusting is to tackle a lot of things to get them out of the way, usually by finding ways to group things together. Now, return to that top priority list you made. Which items on your list can be tackled together? Possibly they share some tables or functionality. You might group items that all go to one lab/division/site. Remember, though, that delivering too many items at one time might mean that no-one ever finds the time to test it. So, keep that into consideration.
After finding a natural group of items that could be delivered together, now consider whether you can or should break this down into smaller bits of functionality. This way, testing can be more manageable for whomever is going to get it.
This is problematic for anyone who is testing against requirements that ask for the bigger block of features for the entire requirement. There are various ways to satisfy this, depending on your testing matrix. However, if you’re regulated, this is a spot where you want to get input from your validation test lead. That way, no-onehas to scramble to “fix things up” or “retrofit” when you get past unit testing.
Idea Three: The “Stashbuster”
It’s possible that a single person might become a “stashbuster,” of sorts. For example, you can have one person go through all the items and come up with solutions. That person might just lay the groundwork, where they create a model of one or more new functions. However, they don’t necessarily build the entire solution.
Some projects use their data architect for this. This makes sense because the data architect needs to consider the tables and fields to use for all solutions. If that person is not only an expert on the system’s database layout but actually for the entire system, this is the best situation to be in. That is because they can put together the ideas on how everything can be accomplished. The next step is that other people can build on this.
I am occasionally on a project where a customer asks me to do this, or brought into a project to do something like this. My point is that it has to be someone that can do these tasks:
- Review the requests.
- Evaluate the system the requests are for (e.g., a LabWare LIMS, a SampleManager LIMS, a LabWare ELN/LIMS).
- Evaluate the specific implementation of that system.
- Build proposed solutions.
- Propose these to the appropriate people and defend them (explain why they’re proposing each solution and be able to answer questions or come up with new proposals).
- Optional: There’s nothing to say that the same person can’t also build these, especially if you’ve brought in an outside expert (like me, for example). This is because, if you had a difficult time getting these accomplished, you probably do need the extra person’s time to help get them entirely off the list.
Think of all this as just a way to break the work down to make it go a little faster. Possibly you need to reconsider the way you use your resources. Or, maybe you reconsider the skills needed for the tasks as a way to break them up, differently.
And that’s yet another idea for you – if tasks require really different skills that all your team members’s don’t happen to have, then break them up. There are tasks we think of as being assignable to a single person, but that are really hard to get done. It’s sometimes because no-one on the team has all the skills it takes to get the task done in an efficient manner of time. So, I know it sounds trite to tell you this, but you’ll have to think outside the box a little on this.