Everyone in software development knows what a death march is but not as many are familiar with a forlorn hope. The term comes from the time when wars were fought over fortresses or walled cities. Cannons were used to make a breach in the walls big enough to send troops into. Needless to say, the first troops to go into those breaches did not fare well. So, the first unit to be sent in became known as a forlorn hope. It was often a volunteer unit with the promise of fame, glory and military advancement for those that survived.
I've read and heard about death march software projects before but I had never experienced one until recently. About a month ago I was put in charge of a 2 1/2 year JSF/EJB project that had 8 months left and was less than half done. (By the way, that's my excuse for not blogging in a while. It's not as good as Glen Smith's excuse but it's all I've got) At first this was quite disheartening. I assessed the situation and made it clear that there was no way that we could meet the deadline but was told to just "do the best we could". So, I marched on...
Then, as I dug into the project more, I discovered that there were major pieces of the application that were isolated enough that they could be done in a different environment without impacting the overall system. Grails to the rescue. We are now using Grails for most of the remaining development and gaining momentum quickly. Two of the four of us on this team have Grails experience but the other two are coming up to speed very quickly and, I might add, enjoying their jobs more than they have for some time. One of the pleasant side effects of using Groovy and Grails is increased job satisfaction and motivation.
While there's still much to do and it is still unlikely that we will make that deadline, switching from JSF/EJB to Grails has turned this death march into a forlorn hope. In this case the reward won't be fame, glory and promotion but it just might be another IT shop standardizing on Groovy and Grails. Here's hoping!