Software has achieved the status of deity over its short fifty or so years of life; to such an extent that we pray to the altar of the software industry and pay homage to the organisations that invoke incantations to conjure up new commodities. In much the same way that the Egyptians constructed temples and revered them in the name of their gods, so we wait for the next sign that is passed down from on high.
Software is all embracing in that invades everyone’s life in some way or another, and as a consequence it is too huge a subject for any single organisation to completely encompass. There are notables who dominate a certain niche, but the industry is symbiotic; needing software users, Original Equipment Manufacturers and Software organisations feeding off each other to keep the snowball rolling and growing.
From the outside it would appear that these esteemed organisations have a great deal to think about. It would seem that they employ the most erudite of people, who ponder endlessly on the software that the organisation specialises on. In my fantasy moments I visualise a library-like environment with software developers sitting with a chewed pencil between their teeth and a furrowed brow that is deep in contemplation. I visualise the silence broken by footsteps and a whispered voice, deliberately muted to avoid any disturbance.
And then I awake, and realise that reality is somewhat different. Most software projects start in mushroom mode, with no one knowing what has really been sold, or alternatively what shifting market is being addressed. It is rare to include the customer in early deliberations (if at all) because inevitably the salesman has sold the organisation as being ‘market leader’ or ‘best of breed’. It would be difficult to turn around and say to the customer ‘excuse me but how do you do this particular activity’, or ‘I don’t know how this works’.
Thus the Thames barrier is raised between the customer (including the end user) and the software supplier, and a game is played out with the developers screaming for detail, and the legal beagles parrying each other. Perhaps without this facade no one would ever win a contract, but I would personally prefer to work with someone who is honest about their limitations, and who will work with you to arrive at the best possible solution to the problem.
All products evolve, no one ever gets it right first time, but we pretend we do. Whilst I agree that it takes a fair amount of trust between software developer and customer it is surely better to work together to get through the cycle of evolution than to build a glass wall which we fight over.
The customer does need to have some veto over what is happening, since (heaven forbid) there are those who will milk such situations for what they are worth, but if the product is going in the right direction, you will surely get a better outcome.