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26 July 2011

Launch day

By Andrew Clifford

Finishing a project is an emotional experience.

At long last, we have put a major new version of our product, MA2, into production. Anyone involved in a project will recognise the mix of emotions I feel.

My first emotions are exhaustion and relief. Usually we change our software in small increments, about three weeks. This version has taken more than seven months, much longer than usual, and much longer than we expected. I did not realise how much it weighed on my mind until we finally put it live.

My second emotion is guilt. As regular readers know, I pontificate about the right way to run systems. But if I am honest, this is not as right as it should be. Some functions are not complete, user documentation and help files are not rewritten, there are loose end, and even a few bugs. But in the end, after testing the new version within existing users, we decided it was better to put it live than continue polishing it for even longer.

My third emotion is anxiety. I have spent the last seven months on engineering. This has its frustrations - it is a long haul, and I have worried about losing focus on our commercial activities. But despite that, there is something familiar and comforting about engineering.

Now I have to put that familiar and comforting engineering behind me. There will still be technical work, but I have to adjust to a new way of working, much more commercially focussed, and much more focussed on building solutions rather than deep engineering in the software.

My last emotion is excitement. In IT, because of our role in projects, we often think of the project as complete when we have done our bit and delivered the system. But the IT project is only the start of the business project.

If you are not excited when you put a new system in, then something is wrong. The only reason we write software and implement systems is to take the business forward, and we should always be more excited about that than we are about our own technical work.

Sadly, this excitement is often hidden in large companies, when you rarely get to see the results of all your hard work. But one of the great advantages of working in a small company and writing software to support your own business is that you are absolutely involved in the next stage.

And in our case, there are lots of reasons to be excited. If I were to conjure up a mechanical analogy for our software, we have built a machine that can make anything. It can even make machines that make other things. There is no limit to what it can do.

If you are at all engaged with your work, you are going to feel a mix of emotions like exhaustion, relief, guilt, anxiety and excitement when a project finishes. But this is only the start. All these emotions are nothing to the ups and downs we will experience as we take our new product to market.

Next: Hitting things with bricks


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