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How do you make your customers rethink...

When going through requirement specifications most of the time I encounter processes, that could be optimized with the available technologies. However I find it very difficult to get the customers off the "Das haben wir schon immer so gemacht, wo kaemen wir dahin wenn wir es aendern" (I've always done it that way, what would happen if we change). My Granny-in-law contributed a good wake-up story: http://www.wissel.net/__48256D620048177D.nsf/plinks/SHWL-5VH6GC  What is yours?
:-) stw

NotesSensei
Saturday, February 14, 2004

Your granny said "Error : HTTP Web Server: Lotus Notes Exception - Entry not found in index"?

Philo

Philo
Saturday, February 14, 2004

The forum's added some weird character to the end of the URL.  try:

http://www.wissel.net/__48256D620048177D.nsf/plinks/SHWL-5VH6GC

Koz
Sunday, February 15, 2004

interesting, I was told a very similar story by someone else recently.
Based in the western world it was about roasting chicken, a wife was in the habit of cutting the chicken in half to do this.

etc etc etc

<g> so maybe urban legends _are_ all they are cracked up to be.

FullNameRequired
Sunday, February 15, 2004

Every urban legend has some origin in things that (might have) happened. I use that story to create awareness, that the "usual" approaches in requirement design might be a bit outdated. My prime suspects:
- Design screen layout and then reports
- Require month-end/year-end processing
- use FTP/Comma delimited as I/O interfaces
- Require web applications look same (to the pixel) in all, including "ancient" browsers
....
:-) stw

NotesSensei
Sunday, February 15, 2004

Why does your server try to connect back on port 8080?

Suspicious Conspiracy Theorist
Sunday, February 15, 2004

Dunno. Need to check that. It's an Domino 651 and the firewall isset not to let it talk on things other than 80/443.

NotesSensei
Sunday, February 15, 2004

>Based in the western world it was about roasting chicken, a wife was in the habit of cutting the chicken in half to do this.

My husband told me this one, a few months back. I just spent the last year applying this policy to the firm I work for. Spent the last year running around the firm asking "okay so why do you do this, what is the reason for it, tell me everything you know, lets do it better and document everything we know so that in five years time the next poor tech support person that get in will have an idea what is going on"

Still haven't been able to break the "Every folder put in the 'p:\pnx' directory has to begin with 'DATA', except if we have two folders that will need the same name, then the second folder begins with 'DAT'"...

or the 8 char file names...

Aussie Chick
Sunday, February 15, 2004

The most frequent "WTF?!?" trigger I find with my client base is their habit of requesting screens that look exactly like a paper form they are accustomed to using.  They don't understand the ways in which a relational database with a decent front-end can set them free of only interating with their data one way.

I spend 15 minutes or so mocking up some screens in Access, and pitch them as a counterproposal to their request of (we need a screen that looks like this".  I usually manage to change their minds.

Norrick
Sunday, February 15, 2004

People want forms on the screen because that's how they think of the process.  I've told the story before of my first commercial development when they asked me to produce the exact same form as their roneoed manuscript form, complete with asterisks making the boxes.

I did exactly that, along with a lot of complicated code to get them from one bit of the form to the other and delivered it.  Within a week they were bored of scrolling up and down, so I produced the form I always wanted to give them which was a single screen which did the whole thing.

Thus confirming my own belief of never prototyping. 

Simon Lucy
Sunday, February 15, 2004

It's a common dilema. My business is centred around process improvement & consultancy - we go to companies, examine their problems & processes that are not working well and change them.

Generally we can do a cost-benefit analysis to show why the change is necessary. If the process costs £x now, and by changing it will reduce the cost by 25% then it follows that they should make that change.

We also often work on a percentage of savings / pay when satisfied basis. We tell them that if we're wrong and the cost savings don't happen, then we'll accept it as our mistake and they don't need to pay. That way they are assuming very little risk. It also helps close the deal as clearly we're very confident about our services.

Another trick is to work from the bottom up. If you can get people on all levels of the company (not just the executives) excited about the change and how it will benefit them, then pressure on the execs to make the change comes from all sides. Show them a prototype that demonstrates how easy and flexible the new system will be and if it's good enough that will be all you need to get them hooked.

James U-S
Sunday, February 15, 2004

A similar anecdote, quoted from http://store.yahoo.com/paulgraham/arcll1.html :

"In The Periodic Table, Primo Levi tells a story that happened when he was working in a varnish factory. He was a chemist, and he was fascinated by the fact that the varnish recipe included a raw onion. What could it be for? No one knew; it was just part of the recipe. So he investigated, and eventually discovered that they had started throwing the onion in years ago to test the temperature of the varnish: if it was hot enough, the onion would fry."

motta
Sunday, February 15, 2004

1) "The five why's" - You ask why something is done a certain way, then just keep asking "Why?" until you get to the root of the problem.
2) If you *ever* hear the phrase "we've always done it that way" you need to drop everything and chase down that alley to the end.

Philo

Philo
Sunday, February 15, 2004

Actually, I have found most clients have moved past the 'make it look like the paper form' stage.

They all want it to look (and work) just like an Excel spreadsheet.

I seem to spend half my life denormalising data for the user interface -- turning all those rows into repeating data columns.

grr.

Les C
Sunday, February 15, 2004

Les C,

do we work for the same company?!

Vlad Gudim
Monday, February 16, 2004

Reminds me of the story of the Moneys in the Cage. It's about learned helplessness:



Start with a cage containing five monkeys. Inside the cage, hang a banana on a string and place a set of stairs under it. Before long, a monkey will go to the stairs and start to climb towards the banana. As soon as he touches the stairs, spray all of the other monkeys with very cold, high-pressure water. After a while, another monkey makes an attempt with the same result -- all the other monkeys are sprayed with cold water. Pretty soon, when another monkey tries to climb the stairs, the other monkeys will try to prevent it.

Now, put away the cold water. Remove one monkey from the cage and replace it with a new one. The new monkey sees the banana and wants to climb the stairs. To his surprise and horror, all of the other monkeys attack him. After another attempt and attack, he knows that if he tries to climb the stairs, he will be assaulted. Next, remove another of the original five monkeys and replace it with a new one. The newcomer goes to the stairs and is attacked. The previous newcomer takes part in the punishment with enthusiasm!

Likewise, replace a third original monkey with a new one, then a fourth, then the fifth. Every time the newest monkey takes to the stairs, he is attacked. None of the monkeys that are beating him have any idea why they were not permitted to climb the stairs or why they are participating in the beating of the newest monkey. After replacing all the original monkeys, none of the remaining monkeys have ever been sprayed with cold water. Nevertheless, no monkey ever again approaches the stairs to try for the banana. Why not? Because as far as they know that's the way it's always been done around here.

And that, my friends, is how company policy begins.

The real Entrepreneur
Monday, February 16, 2004

Helpful advice:

Pick the low hanging fruit to earn credibility.

Find something that they can change that will give them immediate benefits.

If you can get that change made, then try to change something else, leveraging that credibility.

WIFM
What's in it for me?  Remember to "market" your solution by explaining how it'll benefit THEM.

I was once trying to teach secretaries how to use MS Word. They had no interest  in learning (though it would have helped them) until I found something that would benefit them immediately (printing labels or something).  Bingo!  I had thier attention. After I went from Geek to Guru :-)

The real Entrepreneur
Monday, February 16, 2004

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