Vulnerability Audit: Addressing the 2020 Product Delays

A statement from Zac Bauermeister, NISEI President:

I wanted to give you all an update on timelines for System Update 2021 and System Gateway, the next two products in the NISEI pipeline.

When we originally announced System Gateway and System Update, we promised they would be available by the second quarter of 2020. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, the window we promised is swiftly closing, and we did not announce any additional details until the product announcements today. Unfortunately, due to some unforeseen problems in our production pipeline, we have had to delay the launch of both products in order to avoid asking too much of our volunteer staff. Rest assured, however, that they aren’t too far off, and that they and future NISEI products will be much better for it!

As we announced today, we are now planning to release System Gateway and System Update 2021 concurrently in early December 2020.

What accounts for this delay? I wish I could point to a single dramatic event, but in actuality, it was the result of many smaller organizational challenges, as well as the difficulties posed by developing and playtesting an introductory product and format that we intend to be viable for several years. I would like to apologize for these delays, as a significant part of my role in the organization is to recognize pitfalls well before we tumble into them, and these changes to the schedule are directly reflective of my inability to do so.

Reduced Service artwork by Krembler

One of the problems that we encountered during the production of these sets was the lack of explicitly defined product owners. Not having a clear product owner led us to take too long to commit to important decisions that had an impact on other teams downstream, and also made it difficult for contributors to have a single source of truth to rely on in their communication. During production of both sets, we also had to replace several people in key roles within the organization, and the ensuing shakeups also slowed us down.

While we are still working to develop concrete processes in order to better handle these cases, I think that we have learned a lot about how to more smoothly transfer knowledge to new members, and how to recruit effectively. We have gathered feedback from former and incoming members to help to construct a systematic approach to these transitions, which will be implemented soon.

Additionally, we have created a new product owner role for each set that we work on, which is filled by a member of the leadership team chosen by our production coordinator. The product owner is empowered to have the final say in all decisions about the product during the entire lifecycle of the project, and is also responsible for the success of the product both internally during development and externally after release. The combination of these pre- and post-launch aspects encourages our product owners to gather feedback before making a decision and enables them to make critical decisions as quickly as context demands.

As we continue to work on the products that will follow System Gateway and System Update 2021, we are already using the knowledge that we gained from these missteps to ensure that they have smooth production through their entire lifecycle, hopefully avoiding this kind of delay in the future.

Thank you for your understanding and continued support!

Product names are not yet finalized and are subject to change.