Re: Customer Not Always Right LO2245

Jim Michmerhuizen (
Wed, 26 Jul 1995 21:57:47 +0059 (EDT)

Replying to LO2171 --

Ahhh. That's a dandy. I've been in similar situations. Customers or
potential ones who are not quite sure of themselves, generate spuriously
concrete requirements, to prove that they know what they're doing. Then
the consultant (or group), also uncertain of itself, takes the "safe"
path of construing these requirements as literally as possible.

Now _there's_ a feedback loop for you! Aren't both parties led to
disaster by their fear of the "spirit" as opposed to the "letter" of an

How can a requirement for ten layers of breakout originate in the first
place except by somebody's deliberate and wilful act of NOT thinking.

I've come to believe that "NOT thinking about it" is the most ubiquitous
sin of all. More common than all the seven deadliest together.

     Jim Michmerhuizen
     web residence at
 : : : : : : : : "I planted flowers but nothing happened." : : : : : : : :
  : : : : : : : :          "Try planting seeds."          : : : : : : : :

On Thu, 20 Jul 1995 wrote:

> 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 > > >