Plus Two

Pretty clear now that I’m being laid off come tomorrow.  A younger, healthier me would have been excited by this sort of liberation.  Old, wobbly, blind, responsible me, not as much.  Trying to capture lessons learned from this seems somewhat pointless.  The people most responsible wouldn’t actually learn anything from the mistakes many of us made along the way.

The larger lesson?  Stove-piping everything just doesn’t work anymore.  Maybe it did ten years ago.  Maybe you could just try to make incremental improvements to the existing stuff.  But what does the existing stuff do?  Why are people using it?  Those questions remain unanswered.  The graying set don’t bother to even ask those questions.

Why would they when they believe what exists is nearly perfect as it is?  That’s doubly true when there’s financial incentive for both them, and their customers in creating new, expensive, Rube Goldberg replacements?  There’s markup, relationship-building, etc. on every frill that ends up in the design.

Going back to what I wrote about  last year, there’s a few unwritten assumptions with the oft-used tree graphic.

1.  The customer knows what he wants and needs.   Unfortunately, that’s not the case.  And, what’s worse in IT, the vendors hit up the customers, so the customers aren’t looking for a black rubber tire swing, they’re looking for the pretty colored seat, and the “cotton-nylon rope.”  (Excuse the reference…, I haven’t read it.)  If the customer actually does need something that’s not going to mess up a pretty white dress, there’s ways to express that in terms of requirements that’d end up excluding a filthy used tire.  That’s not to say you spec-out a certain vendor’s product by name, either.

2.  The Engineers design based on the spec.  Unfortunately, that’s not true, especiallly when it comes to IT systems.  Designers have their own personal preferences, sure.  But they also know which vendors pick up the bar tab, hand out neat swag, etc..  Instead of guarding against the sorts of vendor sway that frequently come from “sales engineers,” managers actually encourage these sorts of interactions.

But thinking about my current ending gig, so much effort’s been expended on enhancing something that already exists, without understanding what it’s supposed to do.  To depart from the tire swing, for a moment, I learned to ride a bike on a bike equipped with a vinyl padded bike seat.  Did that mean I couldn’t ride one with a hard plastic seat, or a big banana seat?

To many IT people, yes, yes it does.  Users expect to click Start, then navigate to programs, etc..  Go to a site on the web?  Well, Start, Programs, Netscape, Netscape Navigator, enter the URL in the address bar, and so on.  Maybe there’s now just an icon on the splash screen that gets the user to that site?  Maybe it’s now a fully-integrated web app running directly on the device?

Well, that’s bad news for people who’ve “fostered relationships,” with vendors.  It’s worse for government customers who want their solutions to get more expensive so that their funding stays up.  It’s bad news for the design engineers who spent countless hours, paid tens of thousands of dollars for vendor certifications.

I’m going to stop and STFU, now.  I have job searching to do.  *sigh*