Monday, August 25, 2008

The labyrinth of complexity



Complexity is hard.

Happily/Sadly, web analytics projects are fraught with complexity.

My initial reaction is often to get a sort of 'deer in headlights' look, and then, I cope with complexity.

Here are a few methods.

Backcasting

Backcasting asks, initially, "what's the end state?", "What's the goal?", or, most fundamentally, "why". If I understand the end goal, it becomes much easier to start thinking about the prerequisites. And the step back. And step back again. Often, you run into a situation where you discover that you should have started work 4 years ago, and that, indeed, is part of the fun.

Chunking / Atomization

Breaking a problem out into its component parts helps. Immensely. Drawing out those boxes, and then drawing lines between the dependencies, and/or interdependencies, helps. Then, you can start untangling all those boxes into an actual flow. You'll often run into chicken and egg kinds of situations, where you can't do A without B, and you can'd do B without A.

Skills Matrices

Alright, you're presented a problem. And it's nasty. What kinds of skills do you need to get the job done? Do you have those skills? Do you know somebody who does? Can you get their time? If not, maybe you can't do the project? Maybe facing up to failure from the getgo is critical? Or, maybe you'll need to train somebody up, and perhaps, really stretch them out.

Clucking the Chicken, Scrambling the Egg

If I'm confronted with a C before E, E before C, except after D and words that end is -ORK, kind of dynamics, I'll really question the need of C and E in the first place.

If you need to do both, at the same time, figure out a way for two different people to own their respective deliverable, and working together - half the time each day, so that it's going in tandem.

Not ideal, but doable.

Use a Spreadsheet or Sticky Note Radar Board

It's really hard to stay organized when you have more than 7 moving parts. You need to keep a spreadsheet, and you need to really track which balls are in the air, at which points.

One of my preferred methods is to keep a huge number of sticky notes on the board in front of me. It's kind of like how air traffic controllers work, except they use these wooden or metal panels and slide them around. I use sticky notes. Or I like to.

My Mac has a sticky note utility on it. And it's really handy. If you're frequently on the road, the physical sticky note system isn't the best...since you can't see it all the time.


Yes - I'm at that point now where I'm juggling dozens of pieces.

How are you doing? How do you manage complexity, especially in web analytics projects with dozens of stakeholders?

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