Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board

hidden planning

We've been working with a small team designing a database application. We also need to have an external 'number crunching' routine that processes some data and sends it back to the database.

The programmer in charge of the external routine is quite capable; however, she has a history of not providing decent documentation for her systems. She has made a big deal on neither providing a design nor a work plan for the program. We are in a difficult situation, because she has good knowledge about our legacy system, but she is playing the cards on continuing our dependance on her services. This seems to be her way to feel, and make us feel that she is, indispensable.

Any experience dealing with this situation?

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Ask her a million questions, set up a lot of meetings, and so on.  She'll get the hint.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Organize a 1-hour code review session every day or two, to familiarize everyone with how all of the code works. I think Steve McConnell gives a good recipe of how to do that effectively  in SPSG, but I'm not sure.

Set high standards for explanations yourself,

And make sure she gives review of one of her parts once a week or so.

It's good practice even if you don't feel anyone has anything to hide - you may have to support their code for a thousand different reasons, not all of them depending on anyone's agenda, will, or plan.

Ori Berger
Thursday, October 16, 2003

Yes. Pay her what she's worth.

Friday, October 17, 2003

The PR firm we use is quite capable but they refuse to give us their list of media contacts or detail their procedures for obtaining good coverage. This seems to be their way to make themselves indispensable. Any experience dealing with this situation?

Friday, October 17, 2003

Rather than swamping her with questions and meetings you should show her the importance of communication with the rest of the team. It might be that her social skills are not upto scratch, instead of her trying to be indispensable.

I agree with Ori: you should set an example with respect to what is expected from her. A weekly meeting should suffice to keep the rest of the team informed.

Friday, October 17, 2003

Why is it an external routine?

Does the database not support stored user functions?

Does the cpu intensity of the calculation out weigh the overhead in sending data out of the database and bringing results back in?

Is the calculation unecessarily row bound?  Could it be translated into a cube instead multiple sets of rows processed?

Simon Lucy
Friday, October 17, 2003

Why should she make it easier for your company to fire her when you no longer need her? Companies do this all the time. More power to her :-)

Frederic Faure
Friday, October 17, 2003

As the market continues to slide, and people with experience are considered an "expense" rather than an asset, expect to see this a lot more.

In the absense of some organizational method of protecting their jobs, people are doing it the old fashioned way of using information as power.  And, I have seen it work time and again for both employees and consultants.

Friday, October 17, 2003

Why do you need the documentation and the design?

I'm asking this seriously; understanding this can provide a handle on how to approach her.

The Pedant, Brent P. Newhall
Friday, October 17, 2003

. and Frederic,

Great points. I'm on here side. Why should she hang herself? That would just be stupid.


You tell her I said "You go grrl!"

Charlotte Corday
Friday, October 17, 2003

We explored several options for implementing 'number crunching', and after long discussions, optimizations and compromises we decided that the external C++ module was the best option. Our projects have a large engineering component and tend to be numerically intensive.

We *always* get the source code and full documentation for software projects (and pay accordingly, that is we pay a premium). We still have 20 year old systems running in the engineering section, and those systems still require maintenance (I'm not talking of a dotcom that goes bust in one year).

We are not planning outsourcing our core work (see some other threads lately), so there is no need to panic on that side. The point is, she is working with a small team that prefers having some indication of plans, time frames and design.

Friday, October 17, 2003

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home