Episode 6 – Roadmaps

“I love this time of year!” announced Flux Larson one morning.

“Why is that?” asked Dave Starling.

“It’s one of the big three annual events, but it gets the least appreciation.”

“What are the big three?”

“Number one is Christmas Change Freeze Frenzy, when everyone throws caution to the wind to get risky untested changes into production all at the same time, before we avoid risk by not allowing any changes over Christmas.”

“Yes, I like that one too.”

“If I’m honest, that is possibly my favourite. My least favourite is number two, Budget Season.”

“I agree about that.”

“Three months of madness with accountants demanding things every five minutes to make up a magical number to tell the business to the cent what IT will cost to run next year, despite the fact that we are never within thirty percent of it and the whole budget gets chucked in the bin two weeks into the new financial year because some big project comes along that was never considered in the budget and eclipses everything else.”

“What one are we starting now?”

Roadmap Season. It’s a cracker. You haven’t been part of it before, so it will be an eye opener for you. Hard to believe we are the descendants of the same people who managed to build the Pyramids. Strap yourself in and watch the absolute debacle that is the next four weeks of Roadmap Season.”

“Why do you like it then?”

“It’s the only one of the big three where actual work gets suspended. Nobody does a bloody thing that isn’t in PowerPoint.”

“I never use PowerPoint.”

“Oh, my innocent child. It’s the worst of the evil collection of components that make up Microsoft Office. Reserved only for managers, for what would someone who was actually doing something useful for the company be doing pissing about with fonts, colours and silly shaped boxes? And don’t get me started on stock photos, that is the territory of consultants, where no human with a soul should ever venture.”

Dave recalled a nightmare he had had recently where he was in fact a stock photo.

“I use Word and Excel a fair bit.”

“Of course, you do. Honest workman’s tools. You write specifications and reports in Word. You use Excel as a fancy calculator to work out response times and costs. You even think you use Outlook, but in fact you are only scratching the surface. Soon Outlook and PowerPoint will be your only tools. I haven’t even used Visio or Microsoft Project in the last two years. That is how deep I’m in.”

Dave looked a little worried.

“Cheer up. If you plan it well, the PowerPoint phase of your career will be over in a couple of years. I’m already out of it myself.”

“How come?”

Flux patted Dave on the back. “Because I’ve got you now. From now on, I’m strictly Outlook. You can do my PowerPoint work for me. Just like the Pyramids, built with slave labour.”

“So, he’s made you his PowerPoint bitch and you have no idea how the Roadmap process works?” asked Justina Goose, the manager of the ROFL team.

“That’s about it.”

“Don’t worry, it’s not that hard. With PowerPoint there are only three things to remember.”

“I’m all ears.”

“Number one, a clear, easy to understand slide will get you nowhere. PowerPoint is a visual tool, but don’t be fooled into drawing nice simple pictures, it will be rejected as oversimplifying the situation. You need to cram as many words as possible onto each slide.”

“Shouldn’t I use Word if that is what I’m going to do?”

“Of course you should, but senior managers don’t open Word documents. You need to do it in PowerPoint to let them know you are serious about it.”

“Okay, got it. Number one, make the slides as confusing as possible. What’s number two?”

“Corporate templates. You have already made the material incomprehensible by following rule one. Rule two takes it to the next level. You only have a small amount of space on a normal blank PowerPoint slide, but if you use the corporate template, you lose about thirty percent of that as well. Really adds to the overall uselessness of the slide.”

Dave was making notes.

“And number three is quantity over quality. Any truly important message needs a minimum of thirty slides, and the presentation needs to be nine to ten megabytes in size.”

“Ten meg?”

“That bit is easy. Get a really large picture and put it on one of your slides hidden behind something else. Management don’t understand much, but bigger is better and equals more work, is one thing they seem certain of.”

“Okay, that’s PowerPoint. Justina, how does the whole Roadmap thing work? I’ve been trying to get hold of last year’s Roadmaps so I can update them, but I can’t find them anywhere.”

“Last years? No, no, no. You think it’s like an actual roadmap, where we set a target destination and every year we show our progress and where we expected to be versus where we actually ended up? Oh, Dave, you are so beautifully naïve.”

“How else can a Roadmap work?”

“We start from scratch each year. It’s strictly forbidden to ever mention any previous Roadmap or promise that has been made.”

“How do we get away with that?”

“Easy, we change the person responsible so that the new person comes in fresh and gets to start again.”

“Every year?”

“Were you doing this process last year for your team?”

“I get your point. Doesn’t anyone ever see through this obvious ruse?”

“We present our Roadmaps to other IT teams. They present theirs to the business, the business present theirs to senior management, who present theirs to the board, who present theirs to the shareholders. Who do you think has any vested interest in exposing this for the nonsense that it is?”

Dave had no answer.

“I’ll send you the picture I use to make my PowerPoints so large. It’s Brenda at the Christmas party from two years ago, pissed as a fart and trying to do Gangnam Style.”