Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Dilbert: That's an enginnering secret

Today's page on my Dilbert desk calendar...

...struck a chord. It reminds me of real-world practice that I faced several years ago.

At that time, my employer's Federal sales group worked fairly closely with engineering. They would frequently request features - very specific micro-managed features. Sometimes these features didn't make sense - there were better and simpler ways to do the same thing.

As good engineers, we would ask them "what task are you trying to accomplish with this feature?" figuring that if we know what they were trying to do, we might be able to suggest a better or more efficient or at least standards-compliant way to solve their problem. The answer we always got back was "sorry, that's classified."

Fortunately, our sales people were fairly knowledgeable, so we could discuss the topic at length with them (never mentioning what the end customer actually wants to do, of course) and the sales people could help determine if an alternative feature would be better, but it was still a very frustrating way to work. Even when the feature is developed and tested, it's frustrating to know that you can't test it against the customer's usage because you aren't allowed to know what that usage is. And when you get a bug report devoid of actual usage data, it's really hard to find and fix the bug.

I think Dilbert (in today's strip) has it easy!

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