Simple Solutions

One of the hardest things to do is to discover the simplest solution to a problem.  To often software developers come up with the most complex solution instead of the simplest one.

The simplest solution is the solution with the least amount of functionality to solve the problem.   This makes the solution simple to design, simple to code, and simple to test too.   Another advantage of simple solutions it is easy to document and communicate.

Scaling Music and Software

I am working on a lecture for my economics class about production theory.  Production theory works nicely for software development, music and    information workers too.

Output is the result of labor and capital.  The amount of music produced is the result of musicians (labor) and instruments (capital).    As more and more musicians are added to the process of making music the process of making music becomes more formal and there are overhead costs.

If we start with one musician playing a piano, then there is not much overhead required.  Add  three musicians and you get a quartet and there is some communication that needs to take place.  Add about 96 more musicians and you get an orchestra.

The cost per output (the average product) begins to rise because you have overhead costs.  If you have about 100 or so musicians you need a conductor.   Sheet music is required too (formal documentation not necessarily required for a small group).  We see the marginal cost, the cost to produce additional music, begins to rise.  The reason are additional labor is required that does not produce music directly.

This same model works for software development too.  Output for software is the amount of functionality produced.  As the project scales upward formal processes are just required.   There project resources (labor) required such as a project manager.  Formal methods and documentation is required to help in communication.

So there you have it…. Production theory works for information workers.

The End of Vaporware?

Software companies are being held accountable for problems in its software projects, misrepresenting what a software product does and being deceitful project timelines. A British judge also said the Red Sky software development company should have better understood the requirements of its customer. An earlier court ruling found that EDS misrepresented project timelines and was what its software product actually did. It sounds like the end of vaporware.

Red Sky sold hotel management software to London’s Kingsway Hall Hotel but the Hotel found problems with the software immediately. Kingsway Hall complained and called customer service and got customer no service instead. The software company knew of problems with its software and failed to disclose those problems because it wanted Kingsway to buy its software. It is simple as that. The question remains should a software company disclose known issues to its customers. It turns out British courts are saying yes. Red Sky should have told its customer of problems with the product when demonstrating it and chosen more demonstrations for it that more closely matched the customer’s own business requirements, the Court ruled.

Does any other industry believe or think they should not be held accountable for product flaws that may cause its customers harm or injury. Red Sky tried to rely on a clause in its standard terms and conditions which said that the only remedy available to customers if the software did not perform as advertised was to make use of its maintenance and support functions (a.k.a. call customer service).

Clause meant that Kingsway could not sue it for a refund on the software or for the additional costs it incurred as a result of its failings. The High Court disagreed and said that Red Sky’s clause was unfair under the Unfair Contract Terms Act. It said that this Act applied and protected Kingsway because negotiations between the companies had been one-sided on the issue of liability. His Honor Judge Toulmin also said that the software was not up to the tasks that Kingsway needed to use it for, and which Red Sky should have known were part of Kingsway’s needs when buying the product.

This decision is on the heels of an earlier decision. The High Court ruled that EDS had lied about its software when selling it to BSkyB and awarded interim damages of £270m (about $400 millions) against the software supplier – ouch! The court also agreed that EDS had been deceitful in pursuing the contract, finding that the information technology company had deliberately misrepresented how long it would take to complete the job. BSkyB Wins Legal Victory Against EDS -

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703906204575027303086931726.htmlHigh Court rules software liability clause not ‘reasonable’ http://www.channelregister.co.uk/2010/05/12/red_sky_liability_ruling/

New and Improved Software Titles

Software Psychologist – help software organizations over come its fears and phobias.

Software Psychiatrist – same as a software psychologist but they prescribe drugs.

Software Archeologist –dig around looking for project artifacts.

Software Paleontologist – dig around for looking for evidence the project actually existed.  They also theorize what killed projects.  It turns out most projects commit suicide.

Software Actor – they don’t actually do any project work.  They just act like they are working.  Software Actors attend a lot of meetings and repeat what others say.  Software Theologist – pray for project success.

Software Plumber – unclog software projects.  This is not a glamorous job and it requires cleaning the project toilet.

Software Janitor –pick up after everyone else.

Software CSI – study the forensic evidence to determine if a project was murdered or committed suicide.  By the way most projects commit suicide.

Software Entomologist – collect all types of bugs found during the project.

Software Zoologist – studies all kinds of animals that work on software projects

Software Tap Dancer – dances around difficult project issues

Software Linguist – helps translates the native tongue of a software developer into English.

Read more at www.RebootRethink.Com

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