Tailgate Box v2.0

I wrote about the first tailgate box a while ago.  And yes, it has been almost a full season since I built the second one, but I still wanted to talk about the process.  I think the tailgate box is a perfect metaphor for Agile development.  I admit 100% that building 2.0 last summer was not a good use of my time at a point when I could have been doing other things.  But it provided a nice escape from a lot of troubles at work, and I needed the distraction.  It was a great mental focus.

Tailgate box 1.0 was MVP.  We learned a lot from that experience.  Mostly that it was too small, we needed bigger TVs and that it has to be completely waterproof.  Even with several point releases each season, we new an upgrade was needed.  And so, we also added several items to the enhancement backlog: a bar, better storage, DVD player, internet TV, louder stereo, better lighting, etc

Over the 2013-14 season I knew I was going to rebuild the box in the off-season.  I was anxious to begin.  But the knowledge of the new box, didn’t detract from the customer experience with v1.4  I even got a pretty early start in June.  But as summer wore on, I got behind.  I remember the night before the first game, Tay and I worked her JROTC fundraiser at the racetrack and I didn’t get a lot done.  As they say, you go to battle with the army you have, not the one you want.

Tailgate box 2.0 cropped

I ran my electronics smoke test a few days before, but the development delays meant that we went live missing a lot of functionality.  There were only 2 TVs.  None of the piping for the gas lines was in, nothing was painted, the storage area was incomplete, no lighting, the doors had no brackets to stay open.  It took several games to get these items corrected.  But even now I still haven’t finished painting and need to build shelves in the storage area.

My customer (me, the crew, our fans) really want the full functionality to be complete.  But it’s not like they got nothing.  We delivered a major new release with working functionality that far surpasses the previous version.  Was it everything on the list of requirements?  No.  But that doesn’t detract from the user experience: More functionality can only enhance the user experience.  As a product manager, I made choices, given limited resources and timeline, of what would be delivered on opening day.  The rest of the items got prioritized on the backlog, based on what I learned from actual usage those first few production cycles.  As an example, because it can get a little breezy in the fall, a good system for holding the doors open got moved to the top of the list.  As a result of high winds on the Middlesex Turnpike, we added backup strapping capability.

No one, I mean NO ONE complained about the 2.0 rollout.  I was more critical on myself than anything.  I had more fans than ever coming over to take pictures, ask questions and get ‘the tour’.  The Tailgate Box is not a life-critical endeavor.  It may be customer facing, but my customer understands that perfection is impossible.  The reason is that my customer has come to expect limitations given their limited resources/support, despite the fact that the Doctor insists it was a “group effort”.   They accept this and work within the limitations.

It could be argued that the tailgate crew is my ‘internal customer’.  These guys are definitely on my team.  We work together and in fact, when calamity arose (see Flying IceShack post later) they rose to the occasion and increased their funding to help address a near fatal system crash.  I find it amazing that no one would question these general attitudes, yet reality is a complete juxtaposition at work.  There, my internal customer suddenly isn’t on my team.  I never feel we are working together for a shared goal.  We may talk a good game about managing the backlog, but the minimum threshold for go-live is always near perfection.  We never discuss strategies to go live with minimum capability.  In theory, we could roll out less than the original spec and still have meaningful functionality.  But you better believe that if something is on the requirements list, we won’t go live until it is complete.  No one ever thinks to just accept a limited roll-out and learn as a team from what we experience.

I don’t know why attitudes and norms that you live on a daily basis (ie in a parking lot) are suddenly invalid in an office.  It makes no sense to me, especially when you literally are on the same team.  I have had plans for Tailgate Box 3.0 (new platform= ambulance) for a while now, but that doesn’t mean that v2.0 is complete crap.  It doesn’t detract from existing functionality or make 2.0 ‘unacceptable’.  And in fact, there will be a 2.1 dev iteration before the start of the next production cycle.  The following items made the cut, if you would like something else to be considered, please email me.  No planning poker is necessary 🙂   But you know what?  If I miss a few things, life will go on, the box will still be rockin and no one will be disappointed at the tailgate.  Go Pats!

  • Shelving system and storage for items in the back
  • Re-Rig 3rd battery and secure mounting system
  • Charging wires
  • Easy-on/off and storage system
  • Through-bolts to connect to truck bed
  • Painting with logo
  • Misc fixes for flying damage
  • Glare and protection shield for 42″ TV
  • Rain shields for speakers
  • Bar utensils
  • Propane piping
  • Inside lighting
  • Storage doors for DVD cabinet
  • Satellite Dish

About Josh Rutstein

I am an aspiring entrepreneur and hopeful political candidate. Father of 2 very special girls, husband to an amazing woman, and passionate American. I snowboard whenever possible and follow a 20x mentality for exercise. I also play golf and ultimate frisbee and am a die hard New England Patriots fan and season ticket holder. Everyday I wake up wanting to make this country a better place, someday I hope to actually succeed.
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