On Saturday morning, I had to tell Liz Frederick, organizer of CFUnited that I would not be able to attend. I was very disappointed as I was looking forward to seeing old friends and making new ones, but the decision was a simple, if not easy, one.
Two weeks ago, our little company received a contract to build a very large web application. As is my method, I begin with a prototype. I've talked and written about this before. Prototypes help us explore the exact nature of the application we're going to build, yielding far better specifications than any printed document could.
During the last two weeks, I was working with my colleague, Maciej, finishing up another large web application. This was an intense effort, with me often putting in 14-hour days. During this time, I left the building of the prototype to other members of my team.
On Friday, I asked for an update on the prototype. I was not...pleased. For large applications, particularly, I view a prototype as absolutely essential. It's the best tool I know of for mitigating the large amount of risk inherent in large projects. And here was my team, apparently not taking this nearly as seriously as they should have.
This left me with a real problem. If I left for CFUnited, as I had planned and wanted to, the prototype would have been so deficient that, I'm certain, we would have failed our client.
Different people sell differently. When I speak with a prospect, I do so very personally. I've written before about this, too. If the job looks like something we want to do, I explain to the prospect my method for managing a project. In our discussion, I lay out the central importance of the prototype.
I'm looking for a certain kind of prospect. I'm looking for someone for whom the success of the project is paramount and who believes me when I tell them that I will be just as committed. With the wrong prospect, I may hear something like "Cut the bullshit. I just need a price." With the right prospect, there is an exchange: the prospect exchanges their fear of a failed project or being overcharged or it being badly late -- or any number of other fears -- for trust that I will, in fact, perform. Which makes the situation I found myself in on Friday intolerable.
During the next two weeks, I will marshall all my resources to make this prototype dazzling -- both visionary and realistic. But to do that, I must renege on a previous commitment -- to CFUnited. To those who were planning on attending my talks, I profoundly apologize. I hope that this post may serve as an explanation of why I felt missing the conference was vital and I hope to see you there next year.