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Re: Article on Design and Agile on A list Apart

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  • tmfspeck
    ... Then your business needs to learn to better budget ;)
    Message 1 of 16 , Dec 2, 2008
      --- In agile-usability@yahoogroups.com, "Adam Sroka" <adam.sroka@...>
      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?
      >

      Then your business needs to learn to better budget ;)
    • Adam Sroka
      On Tue, Dec 2, 2008 at 2:36 PM, Ron Jeffries ... Where I have seen it, in the context of government, it looks like this: The process of Undulation is very
      Message 2 of 16 , Dec 2, 2008
        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
        happened.

        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 :-)
      • Ron Jeffries
        Hello, Adam. On Tuesday, December 2, 2008, at 4:53:02 PM, you ... Of course. All projects create less value than is possible. Many create sufficient value.
        Message 3 of 16 , Dec 3, 2008
          Hello, Adam. On Tuesday, December 2, 2008, at 4:53:02 PM, you
          wrote:

          > Can it be that some projects create /sufficient/ value to justify
          > their own existence but not as much value as is /possible/?

          Of course. All projects create less value than is possible. Many
          create sufficient value.

          > And, what
          > if a project provides sufficient value (to someone) without providing
          > value in the form of working software?

          Then it wouldn't make much sense to have a software project would
          it?

          Ron Jeffries
          www.XProgramming.com
          www.xprogramming.com/blog
          The practices are not the knowing: they are a path to the knowing.
        • Adam Sroka
          On Wed, Dec 3, 2008 at 8:25 PM, Ron Jeffries ... Except that it is the Emperor s New Clothing. They have to believe we re selling something or we don t get
          Message 4 of 16 , Dec 3, 2008
            On Wed, Dec 3, 2008 at 8:25 PM, Ron Jeffries
            <ronjeffries@...> wrote:
            > Hello, Adam. On Tuesday, December 2, 2008, at 4:53:02 PM, you
            > wrote:
            >
            >> Can it be that some projects create /sufficient/ value to justify
            >> their own existence but not as much value as is /possible/?
            >
            > Of course. All projects create less value than is possible. Many
            > create sufficient value.
            >
            >> And, what
            >> if a project provides sufficient value (to someone) without providing
            >> value in the form of working software?
            >
            > Then it wouldn't make much sense to have a software project would
            > it?
            >

            Except that it is the Emperor's New Clothing. They have to believe
            we're selling something or we don't get paid. Software is the perfect
            thing to be selling, because no one is quite sure what it is (The
            magical stuff that the internet is made from.) And, everyone already
            expects us to fail (After all it's /really hard/.)

            I'm being cynical, and you don't have to join me. On the other hand,
            cynics are people who have seen how screwed up the world can be.
          • Ron Jeffries
            Hello, Adam. On Thursday, December 4, 2008, at 12:02:31 AM, you ... Well, to operate that way, wouldn t one have to be living a lie? ... Everyone with their
            Message 5 of 16 , Dec 4, 2008
              Hello, Adam. On Thursday, December 4, 2008, at 12:02:31 AM, you
              wrote:

              > Except that it is the Emperor's New Clothing. They have to believe
              > we're selling something or we don't get paid. Software is the perfect
              > thing to be selling, because no one is quite sure what it is (The
              > magical stuff that the internet is made from.) And, everyone already
              > expects us to fail (After all it's /really hard/.)

              Well, to operate that way, wouldn't one have to be living a lie?

              > I'm being cynical, and you don't have to join me. On the other hand,
              > cynics are people who have seen how screwed up the world can be.

              Everyone with their eyes open sees how screwed up the world can be.
              The question is what do you do next.

              Ron Jeffries
              www.XProgramming.com
              www.xprogramming.com/blog
              Find the simple path to what works and follow it,
              always looking for a simpler path. -- Patrick D. Smith
            • Adam Sroka
              On Thu, Dec 4, 2008 at 6:15 AM, Ron Jeffries ... More or less. It is a mob mentality. The more people you have working on something the less stake they have
              Message 6 of 16 , Dec 4, 2008
                On Thu, Dec 4, 2008 at 6:15 AM, Ron Jeffries
                <ronjeffries@...> wrote:
                > Hello, Adam. On Thursday, December 4, 2008, at 12:02:31 AM, you
                > wrote:
                >
                >> Except that it is the Emperor's New Clothing. They have to believe
                >> we're selling something or we don't get paid. Software is the perfect
                >> thing to be selling, because no one is quite sure what it is (The
                >> magical stuff that the internet is made from.) And, everyone already
                >> expects us to fail (After all it's /really hard/.)
                >
                > Well, to operate that way, wouldn't one have to be living a lie?
                >

                More or less.

                It is a mob mentality. The more people you have working on something
                the less stake they have individually. Add deep hierarchies and long,
                slow feedback loops and you have an environment where no one has any
                personal responsibility.

                I think a lot of software people just want to build things. If the
                "architect" comes and says, "I need a component that takes these
                inputs and produces these outputs, and I need it in six weeks," they
                are content to do that with little stake in how that relates to the
                business and the success of the overall project.

                I think the blame for mismanagement generally lies with such
                "architects" and whoever is pulling their strings. Sometimes it is
                malicious. Sometimes it is incompetence. Sometimes you have True
                Believers who are sure that what they are doing is the Right Way to
                develop software even though they've never personally seen it succeed.

                >> I'm being cynical, and you don't have to join me. On the other hand,
                >> cynics are people who have seen how screwed up the world can be.
                >
                > Everyone with their eyes open sees how screwed up the world can be.
                > The question is what do you do next.
                >

                Personally, I make as much noise as I can and then try to get the next
                gig lined up. At some point I'd like to settle down and take some
                responsibility, but that hasn't been in the cards yet.
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