Customer Not Always Right LO2171
Thu, 20 Jul 1995 19:20:13 -0400

Alex Pattakos argued that the customer is not always right (sorry I have
lost the LO #). I would like to tell a story.

I was working for a consulting firm with about 60 professionals. One of
our divisions got a contract to develop the requirements for a software
system for a large government agency. This contract specified that we
would do an analysis that involved TEN levels of data flow diagrams. What
this means is that you start with a model of the system that fits on one
piece of paper (first level). The second level takes each element from the
first level and blows it out to, on average, seven elements. Each
succeeeding level adds detail. On average, it is expected that each level
will have seven elements for each element on the level above it. This
means that the tenth level will have about 7 raised to the ninth power
elements = 40 million!.

I suggested that there was no possibility of producing data flow diagrams
with 40 million elements. I ws told that this was what the client wanted
and therefore that was what we would do.

We of course failed to deliver (in my opinion it wsn't een remotely
possible), the client got mad, and we missed out on all the followup
business that should have been oours if we had done the first part right.

IMHO, this was incompetent and unethical of us -- we had a responsibility
to educate that client that what they wanted was unresonable. And if we
failed to convince them, we should have refused the job.

Moral: The client is not always right.

Barry Clemson
Center for Organizational Systems Engineering