Belfast and beyond … – Tom Cope

Hello it’s me, Tom. C… with another blog post! Full of thrills, spills and punctuation.

*punctuation sold separately.

Anyway, now I’ve got that terrible starter sentence out of the way I can start typing. The hardest part of anything is getting started and that applies to blogs too. So time for an update!

The project I am working on has a more “Agile” structure so the client requested two weeks of “Hyper Care”. In most projects, after the “Go Live” (the point where the solution is fully delivered to the client) there is some sort of support to make sure everything works correctly and to rectify any small issues that may appear.

“Hyper Care” is this same sort of support but more intense. Usually of a longer period – in my projects case two weeks and over a longer set of operating hours. This means each team; DB2, Linux, WebSphere, Security, etc. have to be on hand or on call to help if any issues arise.

In order to help with the “Hyper Care” period project management asked if I could spend a week with the client, to help feedback any issues and act as a bridge between IBM and the client. I was very excited to get started and was surprised to find that the client was in Belfast! But how was I going to get there?

IBM has a tool where you can book your flights and hotels all in one place. So I booked a flight to Belfast, booked a hotel and went home to pack.

After touching down, checking in and walking to the clients offices I was reminded of the Foundation PSC (Professional Skills Class) which is a course that teaches you how to work with the client, what terminology to use and how to “Handle Objections” which is very useful.

Upon arriving I met with the project Architect whose job it is to design how the system is put together and how it integrates with all the different technologies. He wrote the design document which covers all the aspects of the project and how they link up which is invaluable for working out which section is producing an error and how to resolve the issue.

As mentioned, my role was to act as a bridge between the client and the project team, converting the client’s requirements into technical actions to be undertaken. I also had to handle any errors and suggest the root cause along with a remedy plan; this worked particular well as I know how the system worked and could work with the staff to debug on-site issues.

Finally I produced two tracking spreadsheets; one for the performance of the system, gathering stats from the team and correlating the data with the actions the client was taking on the application so see if any particular server was under stress. The second spreadsheet was to keep track of the different errors both on the client and project side and link them together.

Working with the client was interesting, very different to how things are back on the project and I enjoyed it.

Within the weeks leading up to “Go Live” work really starts to pick up, to the point where you have 72 different entries on your to-do list and not a lot of time to complete them. Now you generally have two options; the first – Panic! And the second: time management. Below are some of the commonly used techniques to help process that to-do list:

  • Target it = If you have one massive item that needs completing, just dedicate the day to getting it done and once the day is over you can move on to something else.
  • Lunch = This is good if you have two separate pieces of work. Set yourself the goal of completing one before lunch and one after. This way you can clear your head over lunch and prepare for the final sprint.
  • The ‘pomodoro’ technique = In a nutshell this means splitting tasks into 25 minute blocks. Quite handy when your have lots of small tasks.
  • Deadlines = Set yourself an imaginary deadline to complete a piece of work. e.g. I need to finish that report by 10:00.

So yeah, that was my blog post update and a little insight into working with the client. Thank you for reading and have a smashing day!

–That was me Tom. C.

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