Bad change : the hokey cokey requirements

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It goes on and on and on

When I said I don’t trust change, there were a number of situations I was specifically thinking about, changes that actively cost time and money and decrease business value. One example of this is what I call the hokey cokey requirements.

You can identify these where the business value of the requirement is unclear. Where the product owner is making decisions on behalf of a user without verifying them, or not considering the impact on other requirements, for example, how changing a date for one screen will cause a dashboard somewhere else to report additional failures.

If you’re lucky, you’ll identify the requirement before you start implementation, but more likely, it’ll be in until you release to test or even live, and you’ll immediately get a change request to take it out again.

If you’re really unlucky, you’ll then end up in a tug of war between 2 teams.

How can you identify them in advance?

For some systems, you’ll have a well defined dependency graph between requirements, or at least enough prep time to generate the dependencies from the code prior to accepting the requirement.

For others, you’ll need a big user group to cover the edge cases, and accept that big user groups are not a comfortable fit for agile development.

How do you deal with them when you find them?

Make sure the right users are involved, at design and test. And make sure there’s no hierarchy to invoke. What works best for the CEO might break the workflow for the administration team. On the projects I tend to work on, keeping the administration teams happy are the key to a successful delivery and simpler support.

Sometimes the smallest possible change is best. Don’t build the full solution, build just enough for all sets of users to see the implications.

Make sure you understand the impact, so you can explain it clearly.

But most of all, if you see it happening, try and build a ripcord into the code to pull it out again, like a feature toggle, because despite best efforts, you may still hear “I know that’s what I signed off, but I didn’t expect it to do that!”

How have you dealt with hokey cokey requirements?

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