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May 30, 2010

Dealing with the Lists the “Smart” Way

by Marina

What do you do when your list of outstanding items for the Web Department grows at a fast rate and you are not closing them fast enough?

You might think that hiring more people would help to meet the growing demands from the business, or that the internal processes need be improved to accommodate the work load.

Well, my boss at one of the large corporations had a different idea – “We are going to cut that list in half! No, we’ll remove everything from it that is older than 6 months.” – She told me.

At first, I thought she was joking. Her reasoning for doing that was – if we didn’t fix those problems for years, we don’t have to fix them at all, and nobody will notice.

I went back to my desk and stared at the computer screen for a while, contemplating my next move.

The list contained hundreds of requests for bug fixes and suggestions for enhancements from end-users and stakeholders from various departments. Some items were small, like fixing broken links and spelling mistakes. Others were much bigger, like development of Students Portal; introduction of credit card processing and recurring payments for online subscriptions; integration between Customer Service and Collections departments, so same customer and order information wouldn’t have to be entered manually anymore.

We’ve documented many features extensively, as over time, we received numerous requests for them. We even tested some of the prototypes with the end-users. That master list was used for prioritising work on weekly bases and for doing quarterly planning. It had enough requests to keep everyone in the team busy for the next 5 years.

To me it was so valuable, that I’d consider it a corporate asset. Luckily, I was gone from that company, before I witnessed more crazy ass solutions being implemented.

Do you have similar stories to share? I’d love to hear them.

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