Is this what they mean by iterative development?

Pilot fish is assigned to write a program to handle call center requests -- everything from service scheduling and machine tracking to engineering change requests and design issues.

"Doing my best due diligence, I went from one department head to the next, pen and paper in hand, and asked each one for specific ideas of what they wanted," says fish.

"Each of them responded the same: 'I dunno, put something together and then we'll tweak it.'"

Undaunted, fish goes to potential users in each department, asking for input. But apparently they're all close studies of their bosses. Fish keeps hearing the same thing: "Put something together and we'll figure it out from there."

Fish thinks long and hard -- how can he write this with no input? Then he gets a brainstorm. After that, it takes very little time before he tells all the department heads to assemble for a demonstration in a meeting room.

He even invites the company president -- and when the president shows up, fish almost panics. But it's too late to change course.

With the meeting room full, fish turns on the the projector and starts his demo. The display shows the program title. A few seconds later the CD-ROM drive tray opens. A few seconds after that, it closes.

Demo completed.

"Is it broken?" one department head asks.

Why, no, says fish. Would you like to see it again? He double-clicks on the icon, the program name appears, and the tray opens and closes again.

"But all it did was open the CD drive," says the VP in charge of the mechanical engineering group.

Yes, and then close it, fish says, doing his best to keep smiling at the sea of increasingly angry faces.

"But that's not what we wanted!" says the VP of the electronics group, and the other department heads start their own angry grumbling.

Fish has to raise his voice to he heard over the rumble. You, none of you, told me what you wanted, he says. So I made it do what I wanted. Do you want to see it again?

That's greeted by angry silence -- a silence that's only broken by the sound of the president falling out of his chair in the back of the room.

"I feared the worst, that I had given him a coronary, until the gut-deep laugh finally came roaring out of his mouth," fish says.

"I got my requirements from each department head by the end of the day. But none of them spoke to me for several months."

Speak to Sharky. Send me your true tale of IT life at sharky@computerworld.com. You'll snag a snazzy Shark shirt if I use it. Add your comments below, and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

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Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

  
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