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My boss wants a feature that "mimics" the functionality of Urban Airship... in two weeks. What can I say to him?

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migrated from Apr 14 '11 at 17:19

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You mean this: , as opposed to blimps? – FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Apr 14 '11 at 17:23
I take it your boss doesn't understand anything about what his team does all day... Does he have pointy hair? – BBlake Apr 14 '11 at 17:27
I understand that the Urban Airship products are succesfull precisely because is not easy achieve what they offer: push notifications in three platforms (Blacberry, iOS and Android) and for I know, there is no alternative commercial or open source to their products. I think hardly a programmer alone can acomplish this, even in a year. – Apocatastasis Apr 14 '11 at 18:05
So ... he can afford 2 weeks of development but not $39.99 ? – Job Apr 14 '11 at 20:39
You would not believe the number of times I've had to spend a week writing a control that could have been purchased for $99 – Dave Wise Apr 15 '11 at 5:01
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Step 1: Unpack "mimics the functionality of Urban Airship" into something that (as accurately as possible) represents the real work to be done (like a list of stories with point estimates).

Step 2: Start the conversation over based on evidence rather than wishful thinking and guesswork.

Step 3: Ask for $6.5 million in funding.

Step 4: Profit!

(steps 3 and 4 are optional but recommended)

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LOL I thinked the same. If I can "mimic" the functionality of Urban Airship I would selling that damn thing instead of programming! – Apocatastasis Apr 14 '11 at 21:36

Since you can't build the entire thing in two weeks, you have some choices.

  • Be positive. Say "yes" and fail to deliver. Of course, since you didn't mention which features of Urban Airship your boss wants, you have absolutely no clue what to do first. This can lead to really bad outcomes where you build one thing (based on your lack of useful conversation) but your boss expected another thing. You could mitigate this risk through a conversation.

  • Be realistic. Say "maybe" and build something that starts down the road for the primary use cases. Since you didn't mention which features of Urban Airship your boss wants, you have absolutely no clue what to do first. But you do have to pick something to get started with. You might want to get a prioritized backlog from your boss and start on the highest priority item.

  • Be negative. Say "no" and debate with your boss for a while over what can and cannot be done. This doesn't win friends or enhance your career. Since you didn't mention which features of Urban Airship your boss wants, you have absolutely no clue what your boss is talking about. Perhaps they've only used one page of the app and think one simple feature is what they want. You could mitigate this risk through a conversation.

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+1 for promoting conversation. Also, nice re-purposing of the words "two choices" to mean "three choices." :) – iandisme Apr 14 '11 at 17:52

I want to walk on the moon... in two weeks

In fact, be nice; say five weeks

You should be able to explain to him that some tasks are fundamentally more complicated and require more time.
Try giving him a list of the things you'll need to do to create such a feature, along with realistic time estimates for each one.
Detail always helps.

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Run, run fast and run like hell. You have the unique opportunity to realize and document that you are, indeed working for an idiot.

I'm making this CW so my peers can edit it and chime in with horror stories that resulted in less than desirable endings :)

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