A House With No Front Door Keeps you off the streets

I found an interesting article today.

A House With No Front Door

It is written by a product marketing professional lamenting about dealing with ‘resource constrained’ engineering teams.

Seeing as how I come from a resource constrained engineering team I thought it was an interesting read.  The premise of the article was the disconnect as described:

Perhaps it is my job to get this perspective across to them, and I try to do that, but the gulf between the “feature triage” perspective that many engineers have, and the “holistic” customer or market perspective that is needed is enormous.

So the article goes on to talk about how engineers struggle for workarounds and laments

If something is truly necessary, then why is it not worth implementing correctly? Yes, I understand deadlines and resource constraints and marketing, sales and competitive pressures etc, but it is very easy to fall into the habit of providing partial solutions to problems, and laying the burden of what’s missing onto users.

And the final closing argument revolved around the house this persons team would build

Imagine if houses were built with this premise, and every time some aspect of the house was discussed, questions about workarounds were raised. You’d end up with a two storey house, that required external ladders to get to the second floor, a fireman’s pole to quickly get down to the first (no wasted floor space inside because of unnecessary staircases), that wouldn’t have a front door (the back door should be sufficient), that had only one big bedroom and closet for everyone (those extra walls and doors cost time and money you know), one bathroom (it would be an outhouse to give equal access from either floor), and only a wood burning stove to both heat the house and to use for cooking (minimizes unnecessary duct work).

The crazy house happens because developers know that they can’t give the people what is being ordered, but they do their best to get a roof over their customers heads.  The real question is why did product marketing order a two story house when they could only afford a ranch?.  This would not happen in a house because the builder would simply raise the up front costs.  The recent sub-prime lending issues clearly show how people are willing to pay more then they can afford in order to get what they think they need.  So people that should be in a small ranch wind up being in a 3 story colonial until they go into foreclosure.

In a business if the developers do what builders did and simply raise the prices and give people what they ask for, then they would go into foreclosure as well.

Perhaps the real question we should be asking is why do product marketing people continually try to ‘give the customers what they want’ without getting the resources and money in place to achieve their goal.

I’ve been writing software against requirements for over 20 years and have seen this over and over when the product people and business people are not the same human or at least in-sync.

Scrum and Agile are desinged to solve this by making it a team effort.  So in Scrum it is not the ‘developers’ that build this Dr Seuss house, but the team.  I think this is why many people fear Scrum. There is no ‘justifiable failure’.

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