Friday Dec 23, 2011

Do you have OUM work product “samples” to share?

Often I am asked for examples of Oracle Unified Method (OUM) work products.  These requests come from many interested parties; clients, partners and Oracle consultants. 

In OUM, the output of a task or activity is called a work product to eliminate the risk of having method deliverables confused with contractual deliverables. Contractual deliverables are specifically referenced in the contract and often have a payment schedule associated with their acceptance. Contractual deliverables may be method work products, but they may also reference additional deliverables not documented by the method.

In addition, not every work product referenced in the method material is required for a given project. The required work products are based on specific project scope.

OUM refers to real-world project artifacts (work products and deliverables) --- “samples”.  For some tasks OUM provides “examples” these are somewhat helpful in understanding how to use an OUM work product template.  “Examples” are usually based on the “Ski Now” case study used in OUM training materials. But real-world sample artifacts are like “gold” to people who are using OUM for the first time.

Of course, we all know sharing of actual project samples happens, especially within partner, client, and Oracle internal organizations.  But people are often hesitant to put forth a project artifact as a “leading practice” outside of their organization and often even exclude anyone outside of the immediate project from seeing how they used OUM to create a work product or deliverable.

Early on in OUM history, people used this unwillingness to “share” samples as a form of resistance to change.  This was a true lesson in organizational change management resistance techniques for me, professionally speaking.  They would say, “Well you don’t have any project samples that must mean no one is using it”!  But, I had seen the samples!  I just didn’t have the authorization to share them, sometimes even within Oracle because of contractual agreements.

In other cases, I’d review samples and think (to myself)… maybe better training up front would have avoided the mixed-results of the project team.  These aren’t leading practices; they are at best, people struggling because no one committed the time to train the project team. 

The interesting thing is that samples exist, but they are “Top Secret”!  When, the simple act of sharing would benefit everyone!  It also helps OUM improve when we can see how people have tailored or combined the work products in their samples.  On some projects makes sense to combine several templates into one sample.

No one seems to want to “share” samples across organizations.  How can it be that everyone wants to see them, but no one wants to share their project artifacts? 

  1. Often people are intimidated about putting their work out for review, because they expect to have to defend their choices.
  2. Sometimes, it is due to the fact that the System Under discussion (SuD) is highly proprietary in nature. 
  3. Most often, I think it is just a matter of having enough time, because we are all busy, working hard to get the work done, and sharing is a “nice to have”. 

Those are my top three “assumptions” about why people aren’t motivated to share.  What do you think?

OK, I am one of those people who expect that people want to do the “right thing”.   As professionals, we care about the work we do, and we want to be the best that we can be.  I’d really like to be able to say “Yes, here is a sample from a real project that implemented these Oracle products”

OUM adoption is going very well, globally.  I am so impressed by the intern instructors and students, when I have an opportunity to teach OUM.  This is the time in OUM adoption where the walls need to be a bit more transparent.  What if, as a community of IT professionals, we could do as they do for the walls in a Japanese tea house and make the walls transparent, while also protecting privacy and any proprietary information?  Interesting thought, because as we are able to work together, everyone can benefit.  No, I’m not suggesting that we share trade secrets, especially in the case of competitors or top secret information, but I am suggesting that we can work together to make the overall results of IT projects more successful.

One could argue that the “names could be changed to protect the innocent” in these samples, however, with enough scrubbing the samples often don’t make sense because the context of the implementation project is lost.  Some care needs to be given to the continuity of the sample library.  What type of project was it?  Which Oracle Commercial off-the-shelf software (COTS) was involved; eBusiness Suite, JD Edwards, PeopleSoft, with Fusion Middleware? You see what I mean, it’s really about knowledge management, but most organizations don’t have enough people to keep all this information/material organized, cleansed and vetted as a true “leading practice”.  Sharing of samples makes “process improvement” possible.  If we can see how someone used a template in a real world project, we can improve the templates.

OUM templates are very good, method users, we also need to have samples that apply to certain project “conditions”.  This keeps it “real” for the person using OUM to conduct the day to day work of an IT project. 

Because OUM is a Unified Process based method, it is meant to be Agile in nature.  It is highly scalable to many different types of projects.  This means that no one type of project would use every OUM work product, and no project would use every section in an individual OUM work product template. If a section in a work product doesn’t apply to your project simply eliminate it.   As we have referred to in past blog entries, OUM is highly scalable, so our samples will reflect this.  So don’t be afraid to share, if you get feedback, it will only serve to further educate and refine the process, and provide deeper, richer OUM content.

There is no “perfect OUM project artifact”.   There are no “OUM police” to come and say “no, you didn’t do that properly”.   We all know that doing too much and using too much "ceremony” is just as bad as not using any method at all.  These real world samples are as different as snowflakes; each depends on the “current conditions” and the nature of the project.

What are your thoughts on this topic?  Are you willing to share your samples?  Are you willing to share your examples (created from your samples with proprietary information removed)? 

Yes, this is one of my Christmas wishes.... Happy Holidays!

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