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Only for the Right Customer?

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  • Andrei Maxim
    Hello everybody, I ve started working on some web applications and I m shifting from C# to Ruby as my preferred language of choice mainly because the target
    Message 1 of 8 , Jul 6, 2006
      Hello everybody,

      I've started working on some web applications and I'm shifting from C# to Ruby as my preferred language of choice mainly because the target platform is Linux.

      However, I was rather surprised to find out that the current customer, although agreeing to our XP practices, started backing down and refused to provide an on-site customer. The main reason is that there are too busy trying to land new contracts. And the truth is they are always on the run.

      I'm starting to believe that XP isn't for projects for rather small start-ups that want to rely heavily on the computer.

      Are there any tricks or tips that would make XP more enjoyable for small firms?
    • Dave Churchville
      ... customer, although agreeing to our XP practices, started backing down and refused to provide an on-site customer. The main reason is that there are too
      Message 2 of 8 , Jul 6, 2006
        --- In extremeprogramming@yahoogroups.com, "Andrei Maxim" <andrei@...>
        wrote:
        > However, I was rather surprised to find out that the current
        customer, although agreeing to our XP practices, started backing down
        and refused to provide an on-site customer. The main reason is that
        there are too busy trying to land new contracts. And the truth is they
        are always on the run.
        >
        > I'm starting to believe that XP isn't for projects for rather small
        start-ups that want to rely heavily on the computer.
        >
        > Are there any tricks or tips that would make XP more enjoyable for
        small firms?

        I'm not sure about any tricks, but I'd start by asking your customer
        what *would* work for them.

        The value of XP/Agile for a customer is frequent feedback and
        validation that you're delivering what they need, and the ability to
        adjust if their requirements (or their understanding of the
        requirements) shifts.

        An onsite customer might be the best way to do that, but it's not the
        only way. You could suggest weekly conference calls as well as an end
        of iteration walk-through of the functionality.

        Perhaps they can be onsite for 1 day a week, or just for the iteration
        walkthrough? You could also consider web-based conferencing for the
        walkthrough if necessary.

        For remote customers or developers, I have found that using online
        tools that everyone can access goes a long way towards bridging the
        gap. You customer can still see what's happening at their
        convenience, without needed to come onsite or get you on the phone.

        Hope this helps.

        --Dave

        David Churchville
        http://www.extremeplanner.com
      • Ron Jeffries
        ... In my opinion: XP isn t for teams that, for any reason, will not (or, rarely, cannot) do the practices that help XP thrive. It can readily thrive in a
        Message 3 of 8 , Jul 6, 2006
          On Thursday, July 6, 2006, at 11:45:54 AM, Andrei Maxim wrote:

          > I've started working on some web applications and I'm shifting
          > from C# to Ruby as my preferred language of
          > choice mainly because the target platform is Linux.

          > However, I was rather surprised to find out that the current
          > customer, although agreeing to our XP
          > practices, started backing down and refused to provide an on-site
          > customer. The main reason is that there are
          > too busy trying to land new contracts. And the truth is they are always on the run.

          > I'm starting to believe that XP isn't for projects for rather
          > small start-ups that want to rely heavily on
          > the computer.

          > Are there any tricks or tips that would make XP more enjoyable for small firms?

          In my opinion:

          XP isn't for teams that, for any reason, will not (or, rarely,
          cannot) do the practices that help XP thrive. It can readily thrive
          in a small situation: arguably better there than anywhere else. But
          we do have to do the practices in order to get the benefits.

          Ron Jeffries
          www.XProgramming.com
          Agility might be said to be about encountering
          all the problems so early and so often that the
          effort to fix them is less than the pain of enduring them.
        • Joe Gee
          ... Well, not having an onsite customer increases the amount of speculation about what the features they desire should look like, and what their priorities
          Message 4 of 8 , Jul 6, 2006
            > [mailto:extremeprogramming@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Andrei Maxim
            >
            > However, I was rather surprised to find out that the current
            > customer, although agreeing to our XP practices, started
            > backing down and refused to provide an on-site customer. The
            >
            > Are there any tricks or tips that would make XP more
            > enjoyable for small firms?

            Well, not having an onsite customer increases the amount of speculation
            about what the features they desire should look like, and what their
            priorities are. A common compromise here is to have someone be a
            customer proxy, let them pull all the info and understanding they can
            out of the customers, and stand in for them onsite. Obviously, that
            extra translation layer causes greater proneness to mistakes in
            developing what the customer wants, and in the order they would want it
            than an onsite customer would.

            Anyway, the ability of a proxy to be effective is highly situational.
            To be effective, the translation errors must be able to stay to a
            minimum, or it may be time to consider other processes. Good ways of
            keeping errors down is to get your product in front of your customers as
            often as humanly possible.

            Our offsite customer pulls down builds approximately daily to see what
            things are looking like, and communicates her thoughts and concerns to
            our onsite proxy. That feedback loop is slower than I'd like, but its
            manageable.

            Joe Gee
          • Brandon Campbell
            ... XP can be perfect for small start-ups. It can allow them to quickly get a product with a small feature set out the door and into the hands of customers,
            Message 5 of 8 , Jul 6, 2006
              On 7/6/06, Andrei Maxim <andrei@...> wrote:
              >
              > Hello everybody,
              >
              > I've started working on some web applications and I'm shifting from C# to
              > Ruby as my preferred language of choice mainly because the target platform
              > is Linux.
              >
              > However, I was rather surprised to find out that the current customer,
              > although agreeing to our XP practices, started backing down and refused to
              > provide an on-site customer. The main reason is that there are too busy
              > trying to land new contracts. And the truth is they are always on the run.
              >
              > I'm starting to believe that XP isn't for projects for rather small
              > start-ups that want to rely heavily on the computer.
              >
              > Are there any tricks or tips that would make XP more enjoyable for small
              > firms?
              >
              >
              XP can be perfect for small start-ups. It can allow them to quickly get a
              product with a small feature set out the door and into the hands of
              customers, beta-users, whatever you want to call them and then allows
              developers to incrementally add features that the in-house customers judge
              will produce the greatest ROI for the company and continually deliver RTF's.

              We have a small firm. 7 in all, we involve everybody, sales, marketing, help
              desk, general manager as well as the developers in the release planning
              meetings. We have added Lava Lamps to our Cruise control build so that the
              whole office can see when the build breaks. We have a friday standup
              meeting based on the developers standup meeting for the whole company that
              is run just like a developers standup meeting. Everybody basically answers
              the 3 questions.

              I don't know if those things make XP more enjoyable but they keep everybody
              involved.


              --
              Brandon Campbell
              http://www.acommonprogrammer.com/
              http://www.squidoo.com/xp/


              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            • Sammy Larbi
              ... Can they at least provide a on-phone customer? One of our more recent projects fit that description for the first two months. Once they calmed down
              Message 6 of 8 , Jul 7, 2006
                Andrei Maxim wrote:
                > Hello everybody,
                >
                > I've started working on some web applications and I'm shifting from C# to Ruby as my preferred language of choice mainly because the target platform is Linux.
                >
                > However, I was rather surprised to find out that the current customer, although agreeing to our XP practices, started backing down and refused to provide an on-site customer. The main reason is that there are too busy trying to land new contracts. And the truth is they are always on the run.
                >
                > I'm starting to believe that XP isn't for projects for rather small start-ups that want to rely heavily on the computer.
                >
                > Are there any tricks or tips that would make XP more enjoyable for small firms?
                >
                >

                Can they at least provide a on-phone customer? One of our more recent
                projects fit that description for the first two months. Once they
                calmed down enough to listen to us (or once we bugged them enough saying
                "we've got something to show you"), I think they realized the need for
                it when what we first showed them definitely met what they said they
                wanted, but it didn't even get close to what they actually wanted.

                Now, they were able to appoint someone who had enough time in the day to
                look over what we were doing, and be available almost any time we needed
                them (or they needed us). It worked out quite well, although there were
                some times when these phone meetings lacked focus and took way too
                long. There were a few problems due to the appointed customer accepting
                features which the "real" customer did not accept (mainly due to
                miscommunication on their end), but they were always small, maybe 5
                minute changes or changes in the flow of the application. We all got it
                almost right the first time through.

                The difference was amazing.
              • Kent Beck
                Andrei, Building and maintaining an effective balance of activities is particularly hard in startups, because there is just so much work to be done. As
                Message 7 of 8 , Jul 7, 2006
                  Andrei,

                  Building and maintaining an effective balance of activities is particularly
                  hard in startups, because there is just so much work to be done. As
                  important as engineering is, sales and finance are are more highly leveraged
                  activities. For the startup to be successful, you need to get your
                  programmer-y needs met (time to work and specifications of what to work on),
                  but your needs aren't likely the top priority.

                  A big advantage you have in a startup is that no one is going to complain if
                  you take on more responsibility. While you may only get enough time with
                  your executive visionary sporadically, you can go learn about the domain
                  yourself. You can assist on sales visits, take customer support calls,
                  answer emails, consult with customers early in their adoption of your
                  product, and take advantage of informal learning opportunities (over coffee,
                  for example). While one person on a small engineering team might specialize
                  in this sort of informal learning, the team can benefit from everyone
                  participating (the principle of redundancy in action).

                  All this learning time leaves you, inevitably, with less time for
                  programming. If you measure yourself strictly by how many features you
                  personally implement, this can be a stressful and unsatisfying situation.
                  However, if you can keep in mind the bigger picture of how you are
                  contributing to the whole company's success, it can be enjoyable and
                  effective. You will likely have to polish your social skills to work well
                  "out there" and polish your technical skills so you can maximize your output
                  in the limited time you have for programming.

                  All this learning is not to take power away from your visionaries, "Well, if
                  they won't tell me what to do I'll just figure it out myself," but to
                  improve communication with them. If you only have five minutes with a
                  visionary, it's best you can communicate clearly and concisely. "We also
                  need to handle a feed from XYZ," can be perfectly clear if you know what XYZ
                  is, what data it provides, and how you handle your existing feeds.

                  I think XP is suitable for startups, but there is more to being a successful
                  programmer at a successful startup than just the practices listed in XP
                  Explained. The values and principles remain the same, though, I think. XP is
                  not suitable for programmers who want to wait for stories to be fed to them
                  on a spoon. Actually, looking at the above, I think it describes all
                  XP-style programmers, it's just that a greater proportion of time is spent
                  reaching out to others at startups.

                  Now I'm getting nostalgic for a startup project. I think I'll go stare at
                  worthless stock certificates until the feeling goes away...

                  Cheers,

                  Kent Beck
                  Three Rivers Institute

                  > -----Original Message-----
                  > From: extremeprogramming@yahoogroups.com
                  > [mailto:extremeprogramming@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Andrei Maxim
                  > Sent: Thursday, July 06, 2006 8:46 AM
                  > To: extremeprogramming@yahoogroups.com
                  > Subject: [XP] Only for the Right Customer?
                  >
                  > Hello everybody,
                  >
                  > I've started working on some web applications and I'm
                  > shifting from C# to Ruby as my preferred language of choice
                  > mainly because the target platform is Linux.
                  >
                  > However, I was rather surprised to find out that the current
                  > customer, although agreeing to our XP practices, started
                  > backing down and refused to provide an on-site customer. The
                  > main reason is that there are too busy trying to land new
                  > contracts. And the truth is they are always on the run.
                  >
                  > I'm starting to believe that XP isn't for projects for rather
                  > small start-ups that want to rely heavily on the computer.
                  >
                  > Are there any tricks or tips that would make XP more
                  > enjoyable for small firms?
                • Ron Jeffries
                  ... ;- Been there, done that. I could send you some of mine if yours are wearing out. Ron Jeffries www.XProgramming.com What is your dream? And knowing this,
                  Message 8 of 8 , Jul 7, 2006
                    On Friday, July 7, 2006, at 12:50:50 PM, Kent Beck wrote:

                    > Now I'm getting nostalgic for a startup project. I think I'll go stare at
                    > worthless stock certificates until the feeling goes away...

                    ;->
                    Been there, done that. I could send you some of mine if yours are
                    wearing out.

                    Ron Jeffries
                    www.XProgramming.com
                    What is your dream? And knowing this, what have you
                    done to work towards realizing it today? -- Les Brown
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