e-Talk Radio: Davis, Alan, 8 March 2001

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rarely give a customer an actual working system. I will draw them a picture on a flip chart, or if I actually have both a working prototype, I won't show the customer the screen shots on paper, not on the computer, so the customer is never tempted to believe that there is a real product there.

CAROL: Right. Yeah, that makes sense. Because otherwise they will get...I've seen situations where people have delivered a prototype and the users have liked it so much that three years later they are still using the prototype.

ALAN: Yeah. I have delivered prototypes to customers to show them what their vision would be, and they say, "I'll buy 100 copies of it tomorrow, what's the price?" Now, because you're in a terrible ethical dilemma, you want to make money for your company, but you also want to give quality to your customers.

CAROL: And, and then you end up in the Dilbert Society essentially.

ALAN: Absolutely. And, of course, your pointy-haired boss, still following your Dilbert analogy, encourages you to deliver the product.

CAROL: Well, definitely, definitely. There was a movie actually out where somebody did that. They had shelves of systems sitting in front of people and they were buying up hundreds of them, and I can't remember the movie or anything else about it, but I just remember that part of it, which really sounded like, you know, empty requirements.

ALAN: Right. And at this very moment listening in on the Internet, on this station live, are a bunch of my employees. And they're probably thinking right now, "Oh, didn't you hint a couple of weeks ago, Davis, that you wanted to ship out a product a little bit earlier with a few bugs in it?" So, they're probably laughing right now. You have to blend all of this philosophy with also the realities of business once in awhile.

CAROL; And, so, you need to document your requirements, you need to get something down; would you agree...I know that a lot of times I have had people say that requirements engineering, building software, is really nothing like building a house. But, I often liken it to the fact that, I know in the county that I live in, we certainly would not be able to get a building permit if I kind of drew something out and said, "You know, I'm really not sure what I want in this area of the house, but hey, we will figure that out later," and just kind of drew an airy fairy-type thing. That if I don't have a solid, at least some sort of idea of a solid floor plan, and some idea of how this is going to fit into the owner's environment, I don't get a building permit. And yet in software, we can go ahead and pour foundation and put pipes in wherever we want, and isn't really requirements management about putting the floor plan into place?

ALAN: Absolutely. And the amount of money we are talking about in the case of a software company is often a lot larger than what I am going to be spending on a house. So, investors...

CAROL: Yeah.

ALAN: ...are investing 5-10 million dollars in your company, I can't imagine why anyone would want to invest that kind of money if the company didn't have requirements.

CAROL; Well, we have people around here who are a part of different entertainment industry things who are building houses that are 5-10 million dollars, but that's a different story.

ALAN: Right. And they certainly would not tolerate

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Carol Dekkers's picture Carol Dekkers

Carol A. Dekkers is President of Quality Plus Technologies, Inc., a management consulting firm specializing in creating peace of mind for companies who want to improve their software processes. Software measurement, software quality, process improvement, requirements, and software sizing (using function point analysis, as an example) are a few of the Quality Plus areas of specialization.

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