A mostly-fresh start

Motivation for the Mundane

So where do you find the motivation to work on the boring stuff? I don’t mean documentation, unit tests, localization, etc. That stuff is fine, if it’s for a product you believe in. I mean having become more of a Product Person, how do you keep working on the projects that clearly are not the thing people will use because they want to, but because they have to?

I am responsible for 2 large products at work. App A is a consumer facing application available for public consumption in the app store. End users choose to download and run it not because they have to, but because it solves a problem for them better than loading a webpage on a PC, or using their bank’s Bill Pay solution. It has a never ending stream of feature requests and I’ve got my own giant backlog of technical improvements to bring it up to date. It is a Product with a capital P.

App B is a B2B enterprise behemoth. It is the kind of thing companies build to use internally, and occationally turn around and sell to others to defray the cost. No one will ever use this thing because they want to. It has a dozen programmers from a half dozen departments working on it because it needs to be everything to everyone. It is the very definition of dull business app. The only feedback it will ever receive is “It doesn’t work like giant system B', therefore it sucks”.

My problem here is that management has ordered me to work on B full time to help get a prototype out the door, and I cannot force myself to work on it. Even though the objective part of my brain knows I need to work on it to fulfill certain contractual and political obligations, my impulsive side jumps at every single opportunity to work on App A, wether its “emergency” bugs, feature design, or even end user support. Toss in the mental preload time it takes for me to write good code, and I am way, way behind schedule. Even though App B should be all the fun part of software engineering, writing code, I just can’t do it.

So how do I get it done? I don’t know yet, but I’ve got probably got less than a week to figure it out or face some serious consequences.