Development Project 97 - Informatics Commercialisation Web Project Report

Summary

The original goal of this project was to develop the emerging Zope/Plone WCMS service to support Commercialisation web sites and, the ideas Commercialisation had for institutes sites. This included technical requirements, eg news feeds, calendars, etc and design eg new informatics branding, skin.

The project page: https://devproj.inf.ed.ac.uk/project/show/97 has the details.

By the end of the project, a good chunk of what had been asked for had been achieved. The problem we had was that the existing project 93 (Future direction for the main Informatics web service) was also doing work on Plone that overlapped with the requirements from this project. So it wasn't always clear where to allocate time spent on development work on Plone.

At the end there was still work to do on this project, but we obtained an agreement from the customer, an email from David Richardson to myself and Craig Strachan dated 2-Dec-2009, stating he was happy for us to close this project in its current state.

Work Carried out

A separate copy of the existing WCMS was setup, and various freely available plugins (Products) were trialled on this to see if they would meet the original requirements. Those that did (and were deemed stable enough to use in a production environment) were installed on the main WCMS service. Those that would require significant effort were put to one side, with the plan to go back and see if that effort was justified.

The project never really got out of the "Evaluation" state, as we didn't hear back from the customer as how to prioritise the tasks that would require specific effort. This was probably for two reasons. See the later Issues section.

Work not completed

Some of the things not done as part of the original project, which we'd expect to look at as part of the remaining projects are:

  • Event registration
  • Blog, Wiki functionality
  • Photo and multi-media enhancements
  • Dynamic/random showcase articles

One thing that leaves orphaned is:

  • Plone module to display the technology licensing database from ERI appropriately integrated. This would require a feed of data from ERI that is cached in a Plone accessable database as a separate process. This will highlight all technology available for license. If we cannot get an ERI feed then we would have to maintain the local database manually - hence the module would need to allow administrative staff to manipulate licensed technology content.

Database integration will be something that we will look at in the other general web project.

Issues

In the early stages of the project, the RAT unit were to do the bulk of the work, and indeed good progress was made in the early evaluation stage of the project. However, the RAT unit had to re-prioritise their effort at the end of 2008, and all work fell back to the services unit, more specifically me. I was already doing Plone work under the guise of project 93, the Future Informatics web project.

This project, 97, was then more or less ignored as the working being done to produce the "Institute in a Box" skin for Plone ticked a lot of the boxes from this commercialisation project. During this time I was in contact with David Richardson (one of the customers for this project), so I presume he saw this work as part of this project 97, though I was considering it as project 93 work.

In the meantime the commercialisation people hired an external design company to produce a look for their new web site (www.informatics-ventures.com). As we couldn't commit to getting the final design converted into a Plone skin in the time scales they were looking for (which would have gone against this project), they also hired an external person to turn the design into a Plone skin (the design company didn't have the skills to do that).

By the time their external person had completed the Plone skin, the "Institute in a Box" was done (or nearly done), and those two things met the vast majority of the original requirements of this project. The project then languished, with the usual 90% done, but the remaining 10% looking like it would take significant effort which we didn't have.

Effort

RAT Unit effort spent on this amounted to 21.5 days. My figures are as follows. I've included the time I spent on project 93 "Future inf web" as a good chunk of that would have been work that satisfied the project 97 requirements.

Period Effort (hours)
97 comweb 93 web future
2008 Q3 1.0 0.0
2008 Q4 1.0 0.0
2009 Q1 0.5 2.0
2009 Q2 4.0 56.0
2009 Q3 0.0 20.0
2009 Q4 1.0 10.0
2010 Q1 2.0 6.5
Total 9.5 94.5

That's about 2 weeks FTE for me, and 4 weeks for the RAT. Which is surprisingly close to the 6 weeks FTE originally estimated.

Lessons

We should have spotted the overlap with the work being doing in project 93 sooner and either, agree that effort being assigned to 93 should have been recorded against 97. Or somehow merge the two projects. Having said that project 93 is also veering off its original course. It was originally to investigate and review a possible future for www.inf, but has turned into an implementation of that future.

To be braver in saying "That's it for this project", and either say "that's all we're going to realistically do on this", or spawn a new project which better describes the work being done as a result of the original project.

-- NeilBrown - 24 Feb 2010

Topic revision: r5 - 31 Mar 2010 - 19:41:02 - NeilBrown
 
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