So, the first time I heard “artifact” years ago, my first thought was…a museum.  I pictured someone scavenging or an archaeologist coming back from a discovery trip with a bag full of artifacts.  Little did I know that “artifact” was synonymous with digital document, whether it be text form, diagram, image, or any other type of html or media.

Good.  We have the definition of artifact out of the way.  This week’s topics covered one that so tirelessly makes me cringe when I see this approach across our organization.  One team will give another team a set of models and documents that only explain one unit and no other interactions.  In our notes, there is a point made that artifacts can be misleading in isolation.  Let’s really stop and think about that line for a minute.  It’s not that they can be, they ARE misleading in isolation.

That’s the same as if you and I are building a house and I cut out the blueprint of the bathroom and tell you to go build it.  You drive over to the house that is supposed to have at least wooden beams setup and you find it is only a concrete slab and nothing else has been started.  Then, weeks later, I call you and ask if you are done building the bathroom, and one of two things happen:

  1. You tell me there is NO WAY you can build the bathroom without having the full blueprints to the house or neighboring structures.
  2. You build the bathroom and when it comes time to build the entire house, the bathroom is on the wrong side of the house or inside of the dining room!

There are two very large problems here:

  1. Why did you not call me sooner to tell me that this could not be done without more information?!
  2. How the heck are you supposed to build something when I did not provide you the full picture/goal/vision?

I see this happen time and time again in my organization.  Especially, with our current product that is still in development about to be fully released.  Our current process is to provide developers with ideas and expect them to understand how to build the idea within the application without giving them the entire picture.  This can easily happen in documenting artifacts.  Typically, you have several people working on different areas of a project and they will build documentation for their piece of the pie but no one takes the time to make sure that all pieces of the pie fit together.  This is where the ball gets dropped.  You want all the information to be collated and organized in a way that it gets distributed together.

This can be tied back to an example of working on dislocated teams or a group project with team members across the world.  You each get assigned a deliverable and upload the deliverable to a sharing tool.  If there is no one to organize and unite the information, everyone will just pick and choose from what they need and not understand how all the pieces should function as a whole.

I hope that our organization can improve on this and understand the importance of artifacts and conquering isolation.  In our company, documents go to Sharepoint to die, just like fruit does in your refrigerator compartment.

If you have any comments or similar situations, comment below!