A Day in the Life of an Atom – Project Kickoff

Yesterday, my coworker Jeanette shared what A Day in the Life of an Atom is like for a software developer in the middle of a project.

I’m going to walk you through an Atomic day at the start of a project — the initial kickoff and start of a Research, Design, and Planning (RDP) engagement.

9:00 – Arrive

I arrive in the morning and notice the smell of coffee and hear a couple of Atoms talking through a problem. They’re in the middle of a project that involves iOS and the embedded team over in Grand Rapids and have been working through a Bluetooth communications problem. When I poke my head around the corner, I see that the team has setup a Google Hangout and has the Embedded Team in Grand Rapids up on the big screen. I don’t want to disturb them, so I quickly duck out of the room to grab a cup of coffee before my new client arrives.

Pouring his own cup of coffee is the designer for my new project, Bryan. He immediately congratulates me on the completion of my latest project and asks how it went. After filling him in on all of the details, the conversation quickly turns towards the next project. I’m going to be leading this Kickoff meeting and will rely heavily on the book Innovation Games by Luke Hohmann. The games that the book prescribes are excellent for ferreting out the details of a project and have been used to great effect in the past. A quick look at the clock on the wall tells me that time is quickly slipping away and both Bryan and I have to prepare. It’s time to get to work.

10:00 – Project Kickoff

The client, Bob, arrives right on time, and there’s a lot of friendly chatter over the table as we prepare to start. This is a relatively small project that will involve one other developer, Jeanette, as well as Bryan and is scheduled to last for three months.

I call the meeting to order and outline an agenda and goals for this initial meeting. Bob starts by giving an overview of his vision, and the team continually asks questions and take notes.  We’re really fortunate in that the client has really done his homework and has brought a lot of the artifacts that he’s created while researching his new product. From there it’s a whirlwind of diagrams, post-it notes, notecards, and whiteboard sketches.

12:15 – Lunch

Before I realize how much time has passed, the rest of the office is gathering for the office standup. I really want to join to discuss what has transpired during Kickoff, but we need to take the client out to lunch. We slip out the door while our fellow Atoms talk about their projects and head over to Afternoon Delight for lunch.

Instead of talking about the product we’re trying to create, we talk about our families, hobbies, and hometowns. By the time food arrives, Bob seems less a stranger and more a person we can relate to. By the end of the meal, we’re back to talking about the project once again.

1:15 – Kickoff, Part 2

Though lunch was a welcome break, we still have a lot of work to do. The team feels they really understand the client’s vision, but we all recognize that there are way more features than there is budget to cover. We need to start figuring out what is really required for an MVP release and trimming everything else.

I’ve already been thinking about this and suggest we play the Innovation Game “Prune the Product Tree.” The client is reluctant at first, but seems to get into the spirit of the game after a few minutes. It doesn’t take too long before all of us start to see what the priorities are.

4:00 – Post-Meeting Discussion

The rest of the afternoon goes off without a hitch, and by the time the client leaves, we all feel we know enough to get started. It’s been a long afternoon, but we all have a lot of ideas running through our heads and we really need to share them.

After a quick break, we reconvene. Bryan sketches some ideas down on paper, and Anne suggests some minor changes to make development simpler. It doesn’t take long before we realize it’s almost time for Spindown.

5:00 – Spindown

Spindown is an important tradition at Atomic Object. It’s a time for us to put our work related concerns aside and focus on what is really important to all of us — our friendships. Once every month, Atomic Object springs for food and drinks so that we can all come together to share stories, both personal and professional. Today we have a lot to share!