Question the Goals

I’m putting together a course on Agile Testing and using Specification by Example by Gojko Adžić as one of the inputs.

In revising the text I just had to write about asking questions to obtain business goals rather than blindly following the requirements.  Gojko mentions this a lot in Chapter 5 – in fact it’s crucial to delivering the right thing.

I have some examples that vindicate this approach.  These are my personal examples.

1. Many years ago in the mid 1990’s I was asked to write a Visual Basic program for a system’s administrator.  The Software Development Lead had thought of the solution and asked me to do it.  Being the curious type I approached the sys admin guy and asked what he was actually after.  After hearing what I he wanted I suggested a much simpler solution that required batch files only and could easily be accomplished by himself.  Going past requirements and solutions and asking for goals in this simple example saved a few days work.  Not too bad but the manager looked somewhat incredulous… ooops.

2. This example was not such great result.  I found out much too late.  Here a project, from the early 2000s, costng $250K was created to ensure some legacy applications could run under the new OS Windows XP.  I thought that for the amount of people using it and the expense incurred this could easily have been hosted in Virtual Environments at a fraction of the cost.  Even keeping a few clunkers running the old OS would have been sufficient.  What’s even more appalling that the functions these applications performed were replaced by a new system that was currently being built at the time.  This solution was not in the interests of the vendor at the time who’d be focused on quarterly reporting and unfortunately the client was none the wiser to alternatives.  Too late on this one.  This reminds me of the example from Chapter 5 of the book – a 100,000 Euro rewrite was replaced with Citrix within a day.  Luckily in this case, the proposed rewrite was caught just in time.

There are actually more.  I’m sure there are more from others – I know I hear the complaints.

Gojko suggests asking how a solution is useful to provoke a discussion and prevent offending others – especially those in bigger organisations.  I’m reminding myself to do this as well in my previous blog article, Ask How (don’t say no).  However this is probably another malady that requires separate attention – something incorporating Peter Principle anti patterns.

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