Applying squeeze theorem to software project management

It was a sleepy morning. I was tired and hungry, and in the lecture room, listening to the professor on freshman calculus. He was going on and on, and I was struggling to pay attention, and he mentions the squeeze theorem. Also known as the sandwich theorem. That perked my ears. I was just a tad disappointed when there’s no food involved…

One of the uses of the theorem is to prove that something is equal to something else, say x is equal to 5. If you happen to know that A is less than or equal to x, and that x is less than or equal to B, then you have this

What if A is equal to 5, and B is also equal to 5? You get this

When A squeezes upwards, and B squeezes downwards, by the squeeze theorem, x must necessarily be equal to 5!

Ok, the explanation is a little simple compared to the actual theorem. What I want to point out is that this happens when I’m doing a development project. You see, this is what happens

The customer rarely need everything that they state as a requirement. And the project manager rarely know enough about the software development involved to fulfill what is really required. Three scenarios arise out of this.

They never meet

What happens is I will have to do some serious creative thinking to fill up the gap in the understanding between the two. The customer might want a feature that is hard to implement, but an easier alternative can be done to solve their real concern. The user requirement given to me might have ignored certain software limitations or restrictions, and more effort is actually required. So not only do I have to program a listed feature, I have to make it satisfy both parties when they have different views on the feature.

They overlap

This one is tough to handle, because both parties have their own views on how to do it. My challenge is to prise them apart and convince them that my way will be the best solution. And I have to coerce them in a way that it looks like they are the ones who came up with the solution.

They shake hands

This is the situation I strive for. I have enough specifics to plan the coding, yet have some room for creativity, so as to pleasantly surprise both parties. I have the best chance of success when I am actively involved in the project discussion, or that I can provide preliminary analytical input to one or both parties. Thus will I be able to influence the final requirement.

Sometimes, I have little control over the direction of the software project. Sometimes, I can influence the people involved so that goals are met and everybody is happy with the output. Regardless of the result, I’m going to be squeezed.