Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Getting There...Eventually

Something happened recently in my consulting practice that used to drive me crazy. But thanks to experience, ennui, or both, I don't object any more.

The issue was with an interaction with a client. The situation is all-too familiar: I am creating a tool for the client and he wants to good fast & cheap, which is what client seem to think "agile" means.

As part of this speed and lower cost, he keeps choosing the minimal solution to every problem. He isn't really interested in domain expertise or 30 years experience creating these kind of apps: he knows what he needs and he knows what he wants.

Specifically, he knew that he didn't need help choosing catalogue items on which to report, even though I have had to create multiple look-up tools in the past because choosing the exact catalogue item you mean is complex and difficult. Part of the complication is that the data set contains orders from the previous ordering system, which means that one needs to know the appropriate ordering system, based on order date.

However, he knew that he did not want any bells or whistles, so version 0 was a hypertext link to the legacy web version of their catalogue. After all, he and his colleagues are familiar with the current catalogue, thank you very much.

He was able to find at least some legacy catalogue numbers, but with difficulty. Turns out he didn't know the current catalogue as well as he thought: version 1 added a link to the current web version of their catalogue.

As beta-testing went on, he complained about how hard it was to find the right items, especially if one wanted to report on dates which span the two ordering systems. I showed him one of my interactive look-up tools and he found it usable, but wanting. So version 2 is adding a revamped version of my tool the prototype.

Will we get to where I started, a heavily expert interactive look-up tool? Yes, I think that we will. Is this frustrating? No, not this time around: the client is happy because he is driving the development and is confident that he is not getting more programming than he needs or wants. I am happy because this is relatively untaxing work in a down economy; in fact, I suspect that this indirect route will end up paying me more than letting me do my thing would.

Younger me would have chafed at the lack of respect and taking of credit for my ideas and my work. Current me say, relax, keep your eyes on the prize and get your affirmation somewhere else: IT consulting is unlikely to be a good source of affirmation, at least in my experience.

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