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Employee UX

The Case of the Vanishing Project

June 17, 2020
Written By:
Ceara Crawshaw


Acme Co is a company much like any other. Its business revolves around software— specifically designing and developing a suite of digital tools for its busy customers. Like many organizations, it relies on the drive and smarts of many human beings and as such is prone to ups and downs. While a newer company, Acme has been profitable for a few years now and continues to grow year over year.

Follow the Acme Co. saga →

The case

The end of the quarter is around the corner and there’s been much talk at Acme Co. of building a new feature (Project Catalyst) for their latest software. It’s a big feature and will take a long time and many sprints to build. The Software Team has scoped the work and effort involved and are super excited to get started. With the help of Human Resources Lead, the Software Manager is in the final stages of recruiting new developers to help get the feature out.

Then one day, 6 months later, in what feels like a brutal turn of events, a frustrated Software Manager exits a meeting with Mid-Level Managers to announce to the four developers of the Project Catalyst team that the project has been cancelled. The shock and defeat in the air are palpable. Work slows to a crawl as the development team begins eyeing stale inbox messages from determined recruiters.

In the following weeks, the Acme Co. leaders witness a swarth of their best developers leave while their remaining peers fall behind on priority projects and the company’s numbers tank.

The question on everyone’s mind is “Where did we go wrong?”

The investigation

The leadership at Acme Co turn to their employee experience friends Pencil & Paper to investigate. The P&P team begins to turn over some stones, sitting down with the team and asking about their workdays and workflows. These are some of the clues they picked up on:


"They told me out of the blue at the meeting that the project was slashed and I had to inform my team."


"When we started Project Catalyst, we had to push the release date of our major feature Project Link and customers got tired of waiting for Link and dropped off."


"I don’t get it! We had been talking about Catalyst for a year. Somebody suggested we do it because `{`competitor`}` has this particular feature. We worked overtime to make sure we caught up with what `{`competitor`}` was doing."


The timeline

At the end of their research and discovery period, Pencil & Paper sit down with the Acme leaders and tell them, we think we know how you can get out of this kerfuffle. Here is what they found out:

Several team members have jumped ship and Acme is struggling
← Earlier
Later →

The conclusion

Several gaps and weaknesses came up during the investigation that prompted Acme Co. to look deeper into the way that it did things. They realized they had made a few mistakes:

  • Leaving Software Manager out of the loop;
  • Software Team spending ridiculous amounts of work starting from
    scratch on a feature


Poor visibility and project management on Project Catalyst made it painful for everyone involved, but it was the lack of customer requests or interest that proved the project should simply not have been launched in the first place. By making assumptions about what their users wanted from the start, and failing to check in along the way, Acme wasted precious time and resources building something impractical.


To prevent more unnecessary features creeping into products, Acme Co. have decided to hire a specialist to take on the evaluation of customer needs and requirements and translate them into useful and usable functionalities.

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