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5874Re: [agile-usability] Article on Design and Agile on A list Apart

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  • Adam Sroka
    Dec 2, 2008
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      On Tue, Dec 2, 2008 at 2:36 PM, Ron Jeffries
      <ronjeffries@...> wrote:
      > Hello, Adam. On Tuesday, December 2, 2008, at 4:57:10 PM, you
      > wrote:
      >> P.S. More to the point: much of the value in working software is that
      >> is satisfies some business need. What happens if my business has more
      >> budget for software than it has need?
      > Never seen it happen but if that were true you could spend less or
      > contract to do software for someone else.

      Where I have seen it, in the context of government, it looks like
      this: The process of Undulation is very expensive. It costs the
      taxpayer millions of dollars every quarter. We would like to develop
      the Super-new Obfuscated Undulator (SOU) so that we can increase the
      speed and reduce the amount of error in typical Undulations thus
      reducing costs. Congress has allotted umpteen million to this project
      and we have contracted Gratuitous Spending Corporation (GSC) to come
      up with a design. GSC has told us that they will spend the next two
      years designing the project after which we will return to Congress to
      ask for more money.

      A couple of things about this hypothetical project:

      1) The agency is quite capable of continuing to do "Undulation" the
      way they have always done it. It is expensive, but they have the money
      and will continue to get the money as long as they ask for it.

      2) The project is justified by the perception that it could reduce the
      cost of existing processes. Lower costs are good. Thus, it fills a
      real need and it is easy to justify the additional expense in terms of
      future value.

      3) The process is a black box. GSC walks away with the money and has
      very little to account for in terms of what happens to it. At most,
      they need to have a plan outlining how the money will be spent and
      they need to deliver some documents showing that someone spent some
      time thinking about a solution.

      4) The agency's continued funding depends on it's continued spending.
      It too is not very accountable for what happens to the money so long
      as it can outline a plan and deliver some documents saying what

      5) All that anyone really cares is that the "Undulation" gets done
      regardless of how it gets done or how much money is wasted in the
      process. Thus, there is no force /compelling/ success. Regardless of
      the success or failure of the software project business will continue
      as usual. In fact, in the long run occasional failures produce greater
      revenues for the agency. So long as "Undulation" continues this is
      good for business.

      I won't get into specifics, but this is something I have seen first
      hand at more than one government office. It is also part of the reason
      that I used to live in DC and now live in Los Angeles :-)
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