Zooming in and out of your OSS

Our previous post talked about using the following frame of reference to think bigger about our OSS/BSS projects and their possibilities.

It’s the multitudes of experts at Level 1 that get projects done and products released. All hail the doers!!

As Rory Sutherland indicated in his book, Alchemy – The surprising power of ideas that don’t make sense, “No one complained that Darwin was being trivial in comparing the beaks of finches from one island to another because his ultimate inferences were so interesting.”

In the world of OSS/BSS, we do need people who are comparing the beaks of finches. We need to zoom down into the details, to understand the data. 

But if you’re planning an OSS/BSS project or product; leading a team; consulting; or marketing / selling an OSS/BSS product or service, you also need to zoom out. You need to be like Darwin to look for, and comprehend the ramifications of, the details.

This is why I use WBS to break down almost every OSS/BSS project I work on. I start with the problem statements at levels 2-5 of the reference framework above (depending on the project) and try to take in the broadest view of the project. I then start breaking down the work at the highest level of granularity. From there, we can zoom in as far into the details as we need to. It provides a plan on a page that all stakeholders can readily zoom out of and back into, seeing where they fit in the overall scheme of the project.

With this same perspective of zooming in and out, I often refer to the solution architecture analogy. SAs tend to create designs for an end-state – the ideal solution that will appear at the end of a project or product. Having implemented many OSS/BSS, I’ve also seen examples of where the end-state simply isn’t achievable because of the complexity of all the moving parts (The Chessboard Analogy). The SAs haven’t considered all the intermediate states that the delivery team needs to step through or the constraints that pop up during OSS/BSS transformations. Their designs haven’t considered the detailed challenges along the way.

Interestingly, those challenges often have little to do with the OSS/BSS you’re implementing. It could be things like:

  • A lack of a suitable environment for dev, test, staging, etc purposes
  • A lack of non-PROD infrastructure to test with, leading to the challenging carve-out and protection of PROD whilst still conducting integration testing
  • A new OSS/BSS introduces changes in security or shared services (eg DNS, UAM, LDAP, etc) models that need to be adapted on the fly before the OSS/BSS can function
  • Carefully disentangling parts of an existing OSS/BSS before stitching in elements of your new functionality (The Strangler Fig transformation model)
  • In-flight project changes that are moving the end-state or need to be progressively implemented in lock-step with your OSS/BSS phased release, which is especially common across integrations and infrastructure
  • Changes in underlying platforms or libraries that your code-base depends on
  • Refactoring of other products like microservices 
  • The complex nuances of organisational change management (since our OSS/BSS often trigger significant change events)
  • Changes in market landscape
  • The many other dependencies that may or may not be foreseeable at the start of the journey

You need to be able to zoom out to consider and include these types of adjacency when planning an OSS/BSS.

I’ve only seen one person successfully manage an OSS/BSS project using bottom-up work breakdown (although he was an absolute genius and it did take him 14 hour days x 7 day weeks throughout the project to stay on top of his 10,000+ row Gantt chart and all of the moving dependencies within it). I’ve also seen other bottom-up thinkers nearing mental breakdown trying to keep their highly complex OSS/BSS projects under control.

Being able to zoom up and down may be your only hope for maintaining sanity in this OSS/BSS world (although it might already be too late for me…. and you???)

If you need guidance with the breakdown of work on your OSS/BSS project or need to reconsider the approach to a project that’s veering off target, give us a call. We’d be happy to discuss.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.