Crap on your pizza

I have a friend who runs an Italian restaurant. He is of italian descent and his restaurant does well. If you happen to be in Amsterdam, grab a bite there. He and his family are proud of the dishes they serve, lots of thought has gone into them. So if you ask the chef to put crap on your pizza, he’ll refuse. He is also likely to refuse changing the recipe for dishes that are on his menu upon request. The dishes are the way they are for a reason, and he’s certainly not taking any advice from laymen. As a result, people love the food and the place is popular.

Now, back to software. I have often wondered why software services companies are so accommodating when it comes to weird wishes their clients may have. If you’re a developer, I’m sure you’ve seen this happen. Some kind of expensive piece of software or hardware has been bought, therefore it must be used in the project you’re working on. This is called a boat anchor. Your software company’s business people have spent a lot of time landing this client, so they will tell you to just accept the boat anchor and get on with it. You look at the boat anchor, and wonder how to make the project succeed while this piece of crap is on board.

So my question is: why do engineers serve crap on a pizza? Why do engineers and their companies accept things like this? They know that a boat anchor is detrimental to the project and still they allow it to be there. If you serve your client crap on their pizza because they insist, they will blame you when it doesn’t taste right. After all, we are the software expert, right? We should have known better, ┬áso the client is right to complain. We, as experts should have convinced the client otherwise. That’s our job, it’s what they pay us for.

3 Responses to Crap on your pizza

  1. Kees Broenink April 29, 2012 at 1:31 pm #

    Goed stuk! Doet me denken aan een klant van mij. Daar moest en zou een BPM-tool ingezet worden hoewel het proces een gewone schermflow was, niet eens een workflow…

  2. jelmer May 4, 2012 at 11:16 am #

    There’s actually a couple of reasons for this imnsho

    1. Your friend actually *runs* the restaurant so he can make the decision to turn a customer away, if you are a developer at a development sweatshop, you can try and explain the situation to your managers but the odds are that they will ignore you because it conflicts directly with their goals (maximize occupancy) furthermore they will not be the ones having to serve the crap to the customer or the ones that will get shit all over their hands when the customer wants to change the pizza

    2. Your friend has a lot of customers, turning a customer away is not a big deal for him. In software development almost as much time is spent on acquisition as is spent on actual development. So again when a fish finally bites, people are not very eager to throw it back in the water

  3. Hans Westerbeek May 4, 2012 at 11:36 am #

    Fair points, Jelmer.

    Re #1: I think in the bigger picture, both the commercial guys and the techies share the same interest. Allowing a boat anchor makes it more likely that a project will fail. You and me agree it is bad for techies in the short run, but I think it also hurts the commercial buys and girls soon after. You see, people talk, bad reputation spreads. A failed project (or one that took way too long) harms everyone involved.

    #2. This seems convincing but I could just as well argue that because we spend so much time pre-project, a software company should see these things coming upfront and iron them out beforehand. By the way, would you eat fish if you knew upfront it had all kinds of poison in it? :)

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