Pushing OSS up-hill

You have to motivate yourself with challenges. That’s how you know you’re still alive.”
Jerry Seinfeld
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One of my early OSS projects started off like a rocket. It was a big win, enough to send the OSS vendor to an IPO (Initial Public Offering) that was very successful initially. It was also big enough to earn the sales person a multi-million dollar bonus.

Unfortunately we on the project implementation team always seemed to be pushing up-hill. There were many reasons but I eventually came to learn of the root cause.

After two years, I’d come to learn a lot about this customer, the product, its features / capabilities and data. At that stage, another new project management team had taken over and I was asked to prepare an audit of how many contractual clauses we had met… and obviously how many we were still yet to deliver.

As I worked my way through the contract / capability matrix, it was apparent that the product was sold as being 95% product fit (ie 95% of clauses were claimed to be available in the original core product and the other 5% were to be developed in-flight). Unfortunately, based on my audit the product was actually closer to being 5% product fit when we first started. No wonder the customer had bigger expectations than our implementation team could meet!

But our team had achieved quite a lot, including architecting of modules that hadn’t even existed when we first started and we were up to a product fit of over 90%. The customer had become so used to helping us to develop on the fly that they had snuck in new requirements that were never even in the contract.

Not sure if anyone was held to account after my audit, but our work did form the basis for a number of subsequent contract wins in the region – each with legitimate 90%+ product fits this time.

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