A Real Life Mission Impossible: Make Product Managers, Engineers and the Business All Happy Simultaneously

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Mission Impossible TV cast When we think of Mission Impossible, some of us think of Peter Graves and Barbara Bain whereas others think of Tom Cruise and Ving Rhames. The beauty of the Mission Impossible TV series was that it was predictable… you had the awesome self-destructing tape scene, followed by the dossier scene, followed by the preparations and then finally the actual plan in progress.

Things were predictable, straight-forward and generally everyone knew the role they’d be playing. Enter the modern movie series with a variety of directors where some elements of the classic TV show remained e.g., the self-destructing device. However, unlike the TV series, the movies rarely followed a predictable script but rather often had twists, turns and surprises. Mission Impossible Movie Poster Software development too has followed this path from the predictable and consistent to our modern day reality filled with surprises and complexity, making it harder and harder to keep all the characters in the cast happy. In this blog,

 

I’ll go through a real life Mission Impossible of the modern software development kind: make PM, Eng and the business all happy simultaneously. Should you choose to accept this mission, you must satisfy the following:

– Don’t interrupt the flow of business

– Don’t force people to use a new process

– Don’t force people to use new tools unless they actually want to

 

Unlike Hollywood, you don’t get an unlimited number of cool gagdets at your disposal to actually meet this goal such as hovercrafts, hidden cameras, tuxedo computers, or latex masks. Rather, if you are, in fact, crazy enough to accept the mission…. I give you only one tool to accomplish your mission: an integration tool. That is all. As always, should you or any member of your IM Force team be caught or killed, the secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions. This tape will self-destruct in 5 seconds. Good luck. Turns out, that single tool may be the only tool that has any hope of being able to satisfy the age old conundrum that has plagued software development: “let me work how I want to, and magically everyone else will be happy.” Normally, pleasing one constituent generally results in a lot of unhappiness and diva-like behavior.

By the way – this is a true story – Tasktop’s true story over the last few months… the story I’ve been living. Let me start from the beginning. Our developers have been humming along using Bugzilla for years to manage stories, bugs and tasks. They love it. It makes them smile. 🙂 Problem is, for me as a product manager, Bugzilla simply doesn’t provide the planning capabilities I need – it wasn’t built to do that. So we spent a good chunk of time discussing moving to a different tool entirely. (But wait… our mission requires that we satisfy those three requirements – moving to an entirely new tool would likely break each one of those… so now what?) In the course of our conversations it became evident that the way to truly solve our respective needs was to have fluidity and dynamic freedom in our product development and ensure we had a planning tool that was separate from the execution tool.

Using the integration tool, we would automatically sync them to each other, to ensure planning and execution were in no way disconnected, all the while, solving the three requirements above. Perfect. Mission Impossible: Accomplished. Mission Impossible logoWe did accomplish the mission but as it turns out there was more to the mission requiring a sequel / another season. Ironically, we have actually benefited more in an unforeseen way. In the course of configuring and setting up our integration, it was the driving factor for us to have spirited conversations, forcing collaboration across the functional boundaries of PM, Dev and Test.

In the end, we embarked on a variety of process improvements that *everyone* was bought into and also improved our business flows between the groups. Although we set out to accomplish one mission, we actually realized that we accomplished more than one mission! Thus, making PM, Engineering and the business all happy simultaneously. See below for a “happy Leo” (one of our developers):

Stay tuned for what we learn next as we roll out the next phase of our integration strategy here at Tasktop.