The Importance of Showing Others

This post is part of a series based on a presentation I did to the London VMware User Group on February 25th, 2010 about the reality of Enterprise scale internal cloud platforms. To find other posts in the series, just look for the tag “Bringing the Cloud Down to Earth”.

We’re finally at the end – this is the last of my observations on the life of an Enterprise Cloud project. And again, it’s not something that we really anticipated at the beginning, and has the potential to create very unwelcome interruptions to development. But on the positive side, it’s massively important – not just to get feedback from the stakeholders that you are on the right track, but to stop yourself from getting so hung up on what you’re _not_ developing that you actually forget about the good stuff you _are_ delivering.

Your Worst Critic
You are always your own worst critic. Or I am anyway. My own worst critic that is – not your worst critic ;). So when you go through this process of identifying use cases / features, then stripping them down to the basics, then driving out the actual work required using an Agile methodology, then realising you don’t have the time or budget to do even the basics, and stripping them down even more… it’s easy to become negative and feel like what you’ll initially be delivering is not innovative or ground breaking at all. But when you get far along enough that you can show something to someone completely outside the project, the likelihood is that they’ll be amazed at what you have done / are doing. Something as simple as delivering a new server in 4 hours instead of 4 months will blow a lot of minds. So don’t get too down on yourself because your first release doesn’t include much – Agile, remember? You will build the good stuff, when you see the requirement for it.

The Forest
When you’re part of a multi-faceted team, it’s easy to lose sight of the forest for the trees. It’s often not until it comes time to show your progress to someone outside of the project, that you actually get a chance to see what everyone else has been working on. You may have discussions with people about XML schemas and API’s but it’s not until you see it all tied together and working that you really get a feeling for the bigger picture. And it’s pretty cool when you get that feeling.

Demo Environment
But having these periodic external demonstrations can be an absolute pain in the ass if you have to run the demo on the same environment that is being used for development. Depending on how senior the person being demo’ed to, it may mean a freeze of the environment in advance of the demo which could mean losing half a day in real time which is much more in man time. This can be extremely irritating to people like me, especially in the early stages where the importance of showing others hasn’t become apparent yet. So the best way to avoid such issues is to ensure you have an isolated demo environment. It may mean a little extra CAPEX for some hardware to begin with, but hours of downtime for an entire development team and potential deadline misses because of demo’s is much, much more expensive.

The End
So that wraps up the series. In case you didn’t notice, throughout the entire thing I didn’t dwell on a single piece of technology. That’s because in my experience, the biggest challenges are not technical, and analysis takes much more effort than implementation. Which is fine, just be prepared for it. I hope you have learned something, you may or may not agree with everything I have said, but if it at least made you think that’s good enough for me :). Good luck for those of you with an internal Cloud project on the horizon. It’s been a great experience for me.

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