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Management buying software without requirements?

Anyone else had to deal with this? We have management here that dropped $150k on Crystal Reports Enterprise Server & hired a Crystal developer before anyone had identified any reporting requirements (and while the entire dev team was dead-set against Crystal, but nobody asked us). Now they've bought MS Content Management Server before anyone has identified a need for *that*.

Yet they won't pay $30 for UltraEdit, pay for Flash, or pick up the tab for Photoshop, despite developers/webmasters screaming that we need these tools...

Philo

Philo
Monday, March 10, 2003

The bigger the sum of money involved the more likely they are to spend it, and the liess they understand it the better value it seems.

Stephen Jones
Monday, March 10, 2003

I guess this is one advantage of working for small companies that just get by: Not having money for anything, at least they don't look hypocritical.

Someone else's cynical theory I recall is that it's so the person who came up with the idea could leave with "managed acquisition of $150k Crystal Reports system" on their resume...  "Managed acquisition of $2k in text editor software" might be a lot smarter but it doesn't sound cool; the next guys up the food chain suffer from "working harder not smarter syndrome," too, except in bigger and more extravagant ways.  Hard to believe, but I bet it's often true.

Mikayla
Monday, March 10, 2003

sounds like maybe the development staff ought to look at themselves in the mirror and ask why management doesn't value their opinion.

big bob
Monday, March 10, 2003

Bob, I'm not sure if that was meant as a slam, but let me suggest that when management doesn't bother asking development for advice, it's not always because *development* is the group lacking in expertise or maturity...

Philo

Philo
Monday, March 10, 2003

Yes, management ignoring dev teams is sometimes because management has a problem, but the dev team should still take a look in the mirror, just to double check that they aren't the problem. It's not ALWAYS management's fault - if you assume that your manager isn't listening to you because he's (stupid|arrogant|lazy), you miss the oportunity to find out that he might be not listening because he can't understand a word you say. Do you answer his questions? In a language he can understand? Does your dev team have prima-donnas? The kind that yell at anyone who question them? Have you had them in the past? Even a past bad experience could have trained your management team to not solicit advice - that kind of thing can take a while to get over.

Another possibility is that marketing folks are talking to management, but not to you - perhaps someone HAS identified reporting requirements - they just didn't tell you yet.

Of course, it COULD just be that the management guys are nuts - buying a reporting package when you don't have reporting requirements does sound a bit strange.

Just remember: don't assume it's management's fault until you've taken a good look around. Twice. Otherwise you may miss an opportunity to fix things.

Michael Kohne
Monday, March 10, 2003

I've dealt with many software salespeople and consultants who know that if the tech staff says "no", you can often jump up a level and get someone on the executive staff to say "yes".  This is more of a long-term problem that a company needs to better evaluate these types of purchases; sometimes adding extra red tape at the IT level will take care of this (ie IT won't deploy or maintain the Crystal Reports Server that Marketing bought).

However, on the issue of $30 tools, what I usually do is put together a memo giving a simple cost-benefit analysis based on historical experience.  Something like "In projects x, y, and z, we found that the team spent 150 hours writing and maintaining the installer tool.  I estimate that if we invest $2500 in a copy of InstallAnywhere, we can reduce that time to 20 hours."  Have the project documentation to back it up, send the memo to your boss and boss's boss and you'll probably get the tool.

Colin Evans
Monday, March 10, 2003

Is management getting kickbacks and perks from the vendors they are buying products from? 

Bella
Monday, March 10, 2003

Many development teams are filled with people who couldn't give a damn about strategic corporate focus or the bottom line (or are blissfull unaware of this entire reality.)  They simply think their job exists as a playgrond for them to flex their coding muscles.   

Getting reccomendations from people like this is certain disaster.  Many coders can't be trusted in this capacity.  Sometimes, you need a hands-on manager who knows the business and and code to make these types of platform and package reccomendations. 

Bella
Monday, March 10, 2003

>>
The bigger the sum of money involved the more likely they are to spend it
<<
Management should spend their budget and a little more so they can keep asking for a higher budget.

And as Bella asked if management are getting kick backs; this happens too. I have seen consultant program managers outsource development to companies they have relationships with.

This is a business and you have to play the game.


Monday, March 10, 2003

"Many development teams are filled with people who couldn't give a damn about strategic corporate focus or the bottom line (or are blissfull unaware of this entire reality.)  They simply think their job exists as a playgrond for them to flex their coding muscles."

Uh, Bella, I know it hurts your desire to put down developers wherever possible, but I don't see how your statement logically flows from "the developers would have advised AGAINST spending six figures on a reporting server we hate and don't need"

FWIW, the consensus among the developers is that the capability to perform the requirements exists natively in .Net, or could be accomplished with ActiveReports ($500)

Philo

Philo
Tuesday, March 11, 2003

To paraphrase Bella,

Many management teams are filled with people who couldn't give a damn about strategic corporate focus or the bottom line (or are blissfull unaware of this entire reality.)  They simply think their job exists as a playgrond for them to run up expenses, fly first class as often as possible, drive a fast company car and jump ship when it catches up with them.

backintheday
Tuesday, March 11, 2003

You are lucky it was just a reporting suite or a CMS engine. I have been in situations where the whole of the development environment was foisted upon the dev. team by clueless management under the influence of glibb sales person. Imagine having Java/Orbix(CORBA)/Objectstore (OODB) dropped on your team for a significant project  in 1996. The real kicker is this was for a product targetting NT 4.0 exclusively.

Just me (Sir to you)
Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Have you asked them? What is the response, besides 'you won't understand'? What do you think is the best way to ask them? (Bella, you should to be full of ideas for this sort of question, since the direct 'techie' method of asking clearly isn't right.)

Looks like someone needs to make up the 50k 'dev tools package' with site licenses for a bunch of text editors and nothing else. And a 'web content package' with photoshop and flash etc.

Lacking other information, high price implies high value to most people.

mb
Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Okay, looking at it from Bella's perspective (playground)...  Yeah, if the management guys can't get a sensible answer from us, that they can understand, they're victims of outsiders.  By understandable, I mean without geek-speak and without geek prejudices (pro interesting work, mindlessly pro or anti Microsoft, etc).  By sensible, I mean knowing the company; anyone who works there should have a feel for whether they're thinking high-road $50k package range or low-road write it ourselves in Perl range, but we often let our prejudices or optimism get in the way and suggest something completely not what they were expecting.  And then are surprised when they don't ask us again.

Mikayla
Tuesday, March 11, 2003

The best analogy I can think of would be the owner of an auto garage buying his mechanics a huge expensive set of chrome box wrenches in metric when all the cars they service only use english measurement bolts...

Philo

Philo
Tuesday, March 11, 2003

> I don't see how your statement logically flows from "the developers would have advised AGAINST spending six figures on a reporting server we hate and don't need"


Good point.  This was my bias taking over.  I was thinking about their wanting "UltraEdit, pay for Flash, or pick up the tab for Photoshop".  I dismissed those as toys b/c of my own work context and required toolset.  (I consulted in financial services IT)  They may very well need them if they are in some web shop.  I jumped the gun (this time ;-)

Bella
Tuesday, March 11, 2003

The last company I worked for made SNMP software. Site license was around ~€/$ 10,000. Head sales guy was trying to make a sale, do the demo, that sort of thing. The customer said that they would buy it if our sales guy gave him a BJ.

We didn't make the sale, but he never got rid of the Head of Sales moniker either.

Stranger things have happened. $150K for software noone wants .... hmm makes you really think about the after sales service....

Richard
Thursday, March 13, 2003

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