Fear and Greed in the “Geek/Suit” Use Case

We have discussed this a bit in posts here and here, but maybe bringing some of the points together will help us understand the fear/greed topic as a whole here.

The main fear for non-geeks in a business-case setting is we will piss away a lot of money on some scheme I don’t understand and it will cost a billion times as much as we thought and take a billion times longer and it still won’t bring about the business results we want.

Cost and time are of course intimately related in a software project and closely coupled in other geek ventures, but some references in the presentation will exacerbate them:

  • Advanced technology.  As my old Theory of Computation professor put it, “if you went onto an airplane and they told you they had just replaced all the software on the plane with new versions, wouldn’t you want to get off?”  Nothing excites Fear like bragging about advanced technology, and whereas geeks frequently want to talk about it, it’s the kiss of death in a business-case pitch.  Stress tried-and-true technology.
  • Agile.  Any reference to new processes can ignite Fear, but Agile – in big business settings – is sure-fire to do so.  Why?  Because the suits know damn well your team isn’t agile: after all, they work for BigCorp,  don’t they?  The promise of Agile – more control over the project – seems contrived.
  • Huge, dispersed, or multi-headed team.  Maybe this ought to excite Fear more than it does, but it is Fearful enough for those who have experienced the miraculous schedule-killing effect of a complex team.
  • Multi-year timetable.  The chance that anything will come in on time over multiple years is negligible.

And of course, the Fear-inducers with respect to ultimately getting the right results:

  • Working Closely with Sales.  Sales is a fickle project manager.  Sales people are notoriously attracted to Bright Shiny Objects and a business project whose guiding star is some group from Sales, or close coordination with Sales, is doomed to mission creep and an ultimate product with a billion features and no integrity.
  • Market Research.  Another Fear-inducer about quality of ultimate results, mainly because it’s hard to find honest helpful market research; most of it acts like a mirror, telling you that you are the fairest in the land.

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