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Monday, January 7, 2008

ETL Documentation & Project Plan Templates

Project Team Planning
Project Management Templates
PowerCenter/ETL Templates/Samples (Business Requirement Specs, Mapping Spec, Test Plan, Sample Shell Script, Code Migration Request)

How to approach a Mapping Document?

I had a very interesting discussion with a colleague of mine recently. We talked about the pros and cons of offshoring. I was more or less in favour of it, demonstrating it can save the budget if managed properly and especially if the documentation is well written and corresponds with what the customer wants. My colleague didn't agree, claiming it is better if the whole team sits together (I agree) as specification is never well written nor complete. Having people close to each other facilitates the resolving of potential problems faster.

And he's got a point. If I look back at all the projects I've been involved with I would've hardly found a single specification that was written for developer needs. Have you ever thought about how much time are developers wasting with trying to understand poorly written specifications? How many mistakes they make just because they didn't get the rules correctly? Speaking from experience it is way more than any project manager would want.

So what is wrong with well written specifications which even people sitting offshore can understand and use? Nothing. But it is a very hard task. It is mainly about the discipline that analysts have and about keeping developer needs in mind.

The developer is, without exaggerating, a technically oriented person. For instance, if we are talking about a data warehouse project he wants to know about the tables, key fields used for joins, type of the joins, how to transform specific columns, etc. There is really no need to write a two page essay about the business behind it, the developer is not interested in it. It is not his role. He needs precise information put in the most efficient way for him. A simple mapping document is enough. Why should he waste his time by reading several pages just to join three tables in the end?

Writing good specifications aimed at developers is not an easy task. It requires the involvement of the analyst and the team and the understanding of a project manager. He should be aware it might take some time to complete it. It surely takes longer than poor and incomplete specification. Maybe it will not save you 50% but it will reduce the time needed for the development significantly.

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