e-Talk Radio: Hendrickson, Elisabeth, 15 February 2001

[article]
Rebroadcast 29 March 2001

respect to the vendors, they can't possibly know what problem you personally are trying to solve. They know a lot about problems in general, but they don't know anything yet about your software.

CAROL: I guess that goes back to the car dealership. If you walk in and you don't tell somebody that you need to have, you know, you need to shuttle six kids to and from soccer practice, they're going to steer over to the Porsches, and the things that will kind of get your eye.

ELISABETH: Sure.

CAROL: So, I think that kind of fits in. Now, when you do this shopping, are there certain things that you should watch for, certain things that you should ask?

ELISABETH: Sure. Well, first of all, what you want to watch for is not...you can pretty much ignore the slick marketing stuff, and I'm really sorry to the tool vendors that have invested a huge amount of time and money in their slick marketing stuff. But, what you really want to pick out of that information is look for matches between what they advertise that their tool can do and the items that are on your list. And then the other thing you want to do is actually talk to somebody from the company, and you want to find out, "How can I compare your product with other similar-looking products on the market? Help me understand what differentiates your product. Help me understand the situation in which your tool is the best choice. When is your tool maybe not a good choice? Are there situations in which maybe this isn't going to be a good match?" And one of the questions that I like to ask that they don't like to answer, is I'll ask the salesperson, "What don't you like about your tool?"

CAROL: Oh, that's interesting. And are they honest? Will they actually come out with forthright answers that say, "You know, I wish it did this?"

ELISABETH: Well, there is a big difference between honest and tactful, or rather, they can be honest and be tactful. So, I've never ever had a salesperson who disparaged their own product, but they'll...they'll...they'll answer, but they'll answer in an extremely tactful way. Like the interview question where you asked, "What's...if you have any weaknesses, what might they be?"

CAROL: Right. And I guess it's similar...we go to restaurants and we'll say, "Should I order this or this, or how is such and such?" And when the waitress hesitates, you already know.

ELISABETH: Right.

CAROL: So, if somebody says, "If you were building the tool today, or if you got to choose and run the company, would you do something different?" And as they kind of pause, you know that they're probably thinking about a number of things they would do differently.

ELISABETH: Right. And your goal here isn't to put the salesperson or the representative on the hot seat; it's not to humiliate them, or embarrass them, or embarrass the company. Your goal is to see if you can get additional information that is going to help you decide whether it makes sense for this to go on to the next phase.

CAROL: And it may be that the tool has things in it, or there may be things coming up, or there may be flexibility to customize the tool that might be something you'd never find out otherwise.

ELISABETH: That's right.

CAROL: Now, once you've done the shopping, you've gone and you've gathered the shopping trip information, you recommend that we do step 3, which is "Refine Your Requirements."

About the author

Elisabeth Hendrickson's picture Elisabeth Hendrickson

The founder and president of Quality Tree Software, Inc., Elisabeth Hendrickson wrote her first line of code in 1980. Moments later, she found her first bug. Since then Elisabeth has held positions as a tester, developer, manager, and quality engineering director in companies ranging from small startups to multi-national enterprises. A member of the agile community since 2003, Elisabeth has served on the board of directors of the Agile Alliance and is a co-organizer of the Agile Alliance Functional Testing Tools program. She now splits her time between teaching, speaking, writing, and working on agile teams with test-infected programmers who value her obsession with testing. Elisabeth blogs at testobsessed.com and can be found on Twitter as @testobsessed.

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