Starting an XP Project in VS .NET

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4 Starting an XP Project
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Figure 4.2 SmoothCorp mind map.
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Figure 4.3 An initial presentation on the F-net system (also known as Fizzilink).
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4.2 The First Meetings with the Client
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We have seen some examples of outline project descriptions, and mind maps can also help to uncover more of the issues that need to be explored (Fig. 4.2). Don t get into too much detail yet. We will look at the initial descriptions of a real project that was done by students. This project brief was given by the clients in the form of a presentation (Fig. 4.3). As mentioned before, these initial descriptions were for actual projects carried out by second-year computer science and software engineering students at the University of Shef eld during the second semester of 2003/2004.2 We will follow the development of some of the Genesys and Software Hut projects and the appendices contain more detailed information about the system that was built for this client. Having seen the presentation, the teams were able to ask some general questions of the client. They then had to prepare the groundwork for a more detailed private discussion with the client later.
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THE FIRST MEETINGS WITH THE CLIENT
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This might be a session involving all of the teams working on that client s problem and generally involves the client giving more information about their business and what they are trying to achieve their objectives for the system. There will usually be an opportunity to ask general questions relating to the system, but these should not be technical computing questions (apart from general things such as the sort of network available or to be purchased for the solution). Remember that the client may know very little about computer science or programming, that s why they have come to you; you are the experts. Their expertise is in their business. If you are not sharing your client with other teams, then the rst meeting will be a more informal one. It is important to prepare for it. Starting with the initial project description, there are a number of things you should do. Research into your client s business: Have they got a Web page Can you nd any other published information about their business What do they sell: products, services, or what What sort of clients do they typically have Who are their competitors; what can you nd out about them
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In both cases, the students involved in the projects (6 teams of about 5 for each project) competed to build the best solution for the client. For each client, 3 teams used XP and the others used the traditional UML design-led approach described in most software engineering textbooks. It was an interesting experiment to see which approach did best; if there was a clear difference. As it happened, the best systems, as decided by the clients, were the XP systems. Furthermore the students who used XP found that it was much less stressful and enjoyable compared with the experience of those who used the traditional method. Some of the reasons for this have been discussed before, and we will return to a re ection of the XP process in the last chapter. Be prepared to engage with this re ection process yourself.
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4 Starting an XP Project
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Preparing carefully for the rst meeting will impress the client that you are professionals and will give them the con dence to proceed; don t forget that they are giving up some of their time, and this is a cost to their business. Turn up looking smart, on time, and at the right place. Do not chew gum, turn off your mobile phones, and avoid doing anything that distracts and interferes with the meeting. You need to encourage the clients into treating you as a professional who is interested in the project and eager to deliver an excellent solution. These rst impressions are important, you may think that they are trivial or super cial issues, but it is part of the business expectation that the clients will have. In later life, you will have to recognize these things, anyway, so it might as well be now! It is important that we aim to produce a clearly structured list of requirements, in language that the client can understand, so that an overall description of the complete target system is available. This is developed in discussions with the client. The key thing is to be aware that the requirements will change and to make sure that it is used as a summary of what the current knowledge of the proposed system is. Requirements change is very hard to handle new approaches to software engineering are being developed to address this including agile development techniques such as those discussed here, but it is a hard problem. Clients express problems naturally in their own words, words that might be unfamiliar to us or used in different ways; don t assume that your understanding of a particular word or term is the same as theirs. We need to identify what the terminology means and to agree on it. Write a glossary of business and technical terms as you go along, which should be an outcome of this dialogue. When talking to clients, realize that there may be hidden factors at stake: political, historical, and geographical. You may need to understand these features of a business organization in order to understand the reasons for particular requirements. The use of Appreciative Enquiry, mentioned in the previous chapter, can also be a valuable technique for developing an understanding with your business clients, especially if there are problems, uncertainties, and confusing signals coming from them.
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