Case Study: Project in Flames


Returned to a old client to complete a Big Data conversion project.  The architecture was bleeding edge technology and not working as expected, the team was drowning in nine different integration and testing environments, and the entire project lacked focused attention. Using only email for tracking per management: coordinated the releases into each environment, tracked the constantly changing purposes for each environment, and handled inconsistent management attention along with an aggressive timeline. All new deadlines were met without any further delays and the client was very happy.


I was requested to return to a previous client to fix a project that was about to go into default.  I returned the week they were notifying their largest client for the first time that their conversion was not going into production that weekend as planned.  The new date was in fact three months in the future.

The client was a large brokerage company and their existing architecture was slow to respond to the ever-growing demand for data. The project team leaders were in New Jersey; the integration / release management team, the testing team, and I were in Denver; and the entire development team was in Hyderabad, India. The architect was not qualified and had been fired half way through the project.  The three critical pieces of the architecture had no history of being, or plans to be, integrated with each other and 2 of the 3 pieces were so new there weren’t manuals or forums available yet for questions.  The vendors finally provided their own architects to help problem solve the issues being identified within the project.  The project plan was thousands of lines of data, unused, and created for show.  There were 6 clients to be converted.  Their decision was to use the largest client as their basis to create the core system and go into production with them first.  Then, each consecutive client would require minimal customization and be deployed in a phased schedule after. that  I was the third project manager and had to be the final one.  Nine integration/testing environments were created and in use full time to support the project.  More environments were needed but funds and the technology being configured could not support any more.  The environments were fought over by Development, Integration, Testing, Systems, and shared/client testing.

Due to the multiple projects the sponsor was responsible, the multiple moving parts of the project, and the two daily meetings, I was advised that I could only use email for all project information, no lists could be used, and attachments could not be relied upon.  Each agenda email for both daily meeting had to contain what happened in the previous 12 hours; what the current priorities were as they changed frequently; the purpose, release, and task for each environment, and what was wrong/coming up for each environment.


Turn the project around and make them look good.


  • After multiple attempts, the sponsor agreed on a format for the emails which kept everyone up to date quickly and easily but also reminded her of the issues at hand and kept her up to date.
  • I met with each lead and primary role within the project to create trust.
  • I worked with the sponsor to ensure all information to the client was open and honest going forward.
  • I implemented group defect meetings where the business tester met personally with the developer to reduce the high defect rate.
  • I talked with the India team every evening when they began work to ensure they were working on the correct efforts.


  • I created a core team that included team leads and primary team members that really got the whole process.  We met regularly to keep the project moving forward despite the politics.
  • Trust was proven and relied upon with the project ensuring we were notified of issues immediately which saved us many, many times.
  • The client appreciated the ability to test with us to meet the compressed schedule.  They appreciated the increased openness and began talking about the turn-around of our project with the executives.
  • We became the project to follow within the company.
  • We successfully deployed a majority of the functionality on the new architecture per the agreed upon schedule.
  • The client was happy with us.