OT: bad software blamed for bad quarter / are programmers obsolete?


R

raylopez99

Two posts from the Wall Street Journal: the importance of bad
software as a scape goat, and why IT professionals (and as software
becomes more ubiquitous, perhaps programmers) are dinosaurs.

Interesting about the second story the reporter suggests
'networking' (office politics--'Eat lunch with the regular people') as
a panacea (!)--how typical for a smoozing reporter to say that, but
with Indian and Chinese programmers all coming on board and as the API
becomes easier to work with, perhaps all US/OECD programmers will
become part of the 'service economy' (a.k.a office politics, or how
most people make money in big corporations, dealing with trivial intra-
corporation daily brushfires of their own or others doing).

RL

August 27, 2008, 12:18 am
J. Crew Blames Software for Its Bad Quarter
Most retailers are blaming a slowing economy for their fiscal
shortcomings. J. Crew is blaming a botched system upgrade.

The clothing company Tuesday announced that income for the quarter was
down 12% from the year-ago quarter to $18.1 million. J. Crew also
lowered its per-share earnings guidance for the year to $1.44 to $1.54
from $1.70 to $1.75. The culprit was a project to upgrade the software
it uses to process orders from its Web site that went astray, the
company said.

The new system went live on June 28, the problems began almost
immediately. “We experienced issues related to the site performance,
order fulfillment, and call center performance,” Jim Scully, the
company’s CFO said on a call with analysts.

Just what did he mean by issues? The site has been down periodically
since June, costing the company untold sales and frustrating
customers, at least the customers who post on blogs and message
boards. And we’ve read reports about botched orders and returns: In
one case, a man was charged $9,200 for shipping and handling for three
baby-sized shirts – he had ordered men’s medium – and then couldn’t
get the Web site to process his attempt to return the goods, according
to the man’s blog.

J. Crew said it spent about $3 million in the just-completed quarter
to fix the problem, and made numerous public apologies, which J. Crew
fan blogs have been tracking pretty closely.

There was a wave of businesses blaming poor results on tech-projects-
gone-bad in the early part of the decade. We haven’t seen it much
lately, though.

One difference: Nike, Hershey and others that had problems in the past
went out of their way to blame the tech vendor. J. Crew never once
tried to pass the buck. The company didn’t respond to our requests for
comment, which also means we don’t know which company sold the
offending technology. You can search the Web for “J. Crew” and
“systems” and find the names of several companies J. Crew buys
software from, but there’s not enough evidence for us to point a
finger.

Comments
Report offensive comments t
It would be interesting to know the software vendor and implementation
team (staff or outsourced) responsible for the issues J. Crew is
facing. It may be more interesting however to determine the flawed
process the company went by in “upgrading” their web-site. Most
companies go through rigorous testing phase prior to launching a new
site - particularly one that will take the place of a working
ecommerce site.

On a side note - I just tested the site and was unable to put
something in my shopping cart. Instead I got this error message, “We
are unable to process your request at this time. Please try a little
later.”

Seems they may still have some work to do.

Comment by MBridge - August 27, 2008 at 2:29 am
Post a Comment
=

August 22, 2008, 6:00 am
Tech Pros: The Next Dinosaurs?
Information technology pros will go extinct if they don’t start
thinking about their jobs differently.

Will tech pros end up like the dinosaurs?
This edgy, but decreasingly controversial, opinion belongs to Rebecca
Wettemann, an analyst at Nucleus Research. To Wettemann, it’s the
logical consequence of two interrelated trends: the average worker
becoming more tech savvy, and tech companies realizing that appealing
directly to workers is as – if not more – important than appealing to
IT management.

There was a time when IT departments could get away with forcing
employees to use complicated and hard-to-use software. The average
worker didn’t know that better alternatives were out there. But as
workers gain experience with consumer-focused software – either in
their personal lives or at the office – they’re starting to realize
that software can be easy to use and quick to get started on. It
started with productivity boosters like instant messaging and
collaboration software, but it’s crept into the realm of software
that’s traditionally the realm of IT departments, such as sales
automation.

“No CIO is going to tell me that [a software project] is going to take
12 to 18 months,” Wettemann tells us. Workers will just find an
alternative on their own.

IT can try to shut down these rogue projects, but over the long run
resistance is futile, Wettemann says. Instead, IT needs to reinvent
itself. From now on, an IT pro’s “job is to pay attention to what is
going on out there with the humans in your organization, not the
servers,” she says. Managing tech equipment and maintaining older
systems will become decreasingly important. Identifying the best new
tools early on and figuring out how to get them into the hands of the
people they’ll benefit will be the more important skill.

And because it’s impossible for one person to identify every promising
new technology, the IT guys who take on this responsibility will have
to rely on workers to be their eyes and ears. How does a tech pro do
that? “Get out of the data center,” Wettemann tells us. “Eat lunch
with the regular people.”

-Ben Worthen
 
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P

Peter Morris

The problems with software development these days as I see them are

01: Hiring crap coders. Some companies seem as though they like to fill
seats or something and will hire someone with very poor skills.

02: Unrealistic deadlines. People rarely seem to plan for the unexpected
these days. They seem to give an estimate of how long something should take
if everything goes to plan, which never happens.

03: Coders not speaking out or being ignored. In relation to #02 the coders
either keep quiet in case they look like they can't do their job, or they
speak out and the project manager keeps quiet in case they look like they
can't do their job.

04: No standards. There are lots of standards around these days for
developing good software, but either programmers don't know of them or
management decide they are a waste of time and wont let them use them.

When outsourcing to other countries you have the additional complications of
cultural differences (we once had a Turkish company deliver a system with
only 1 line for addresses, they claim this is how Turkish addresses look. I
suspect they lied), time zone differences making communications a lot less
effective, and the fact that you probably have no idea or control over what
kind of standards they work to.

What constantly amazes me though is how a software project can possibly cost
millions. Unbelievable!



Pete
 
R

raylopez99

The problems with software development these days as I see them are

01: Hiring crap coders.  Some companies seem as though they like to fill
seats or something and will hire someone with very poor skills.

But perhaps your standards are too high Peter?
02: Unrealistic deadlines.  People rarely seem to plan for the unexpected
these days.  They seem to give an estimate of how long something shouldtake
if everything goes to plan, which never happens.

The Mythical Man Month by Brooks I believe--and the rule that the more
people you add to a project, the slower the rate of growth for
completing the project (but hopefully though not the time to complete
the project, otherwise it's better not to add the extra people).
03: Coders not speaking out or being ignored.  In relation to #02 the coders
either keep quiet in case they look like they can't do their job, or they
speak out and the project manager keeps quiet in case they look like they
can't do their job.

Yes, but this only means coding has become an insecure job. One
reason I got out of engineering and into business.

04: No standards.  There are lots of standards around these days for
developing good software, but either programmers don't know of them or
management decide they are a waste of time and wont let them use them.

Yes, this is known in the parlance as a "Level 1" organization I
believe, with Level 3 being the one with the highest standards (CASE
development tools, and people spending time initially thinking about
the architecture rather than just jumping in and coding).

When outsourcing to other countries you have the additional complicationsof
cultural differences (we once had a Turkish company deliver a system with
only 1 line for addresses, they claim this is how Turkish addresses look. I
suspect they lied), time zone differences making communications a lot less
effective, and the fact that you probably have no idea or control over what
kind of standards they work to.

Yes, but having visited Turkey, which is next door to where I'm
posting from, they might not be kidding--some places in Turkey don't
even have an address--you just send a letter to the village postmaster
and he'll hand deliver it to the right farmhouse. As for time zones,
the best one was Sydney for me--when I emailed a Californian colleague
it was something like 18 hours behind.
What constantly amazes me though is how a software project can possibly cost
millions.  Unbelievable!

Or not, as you point out yourself in this thread.

RL
 
J

jp2msft

Sounds like Rebecca Wettemann doesn't know what she's talking about.

Have her sit down with her Blackberry and create an SQL report that joins
tables and calculates results, then output that report in a nice, readable
fashion.

Or, have her call up some contract software firm and ask them how much to
develop this for her! I think she'll find it costs less to have a team of
developers on the payroll to keep this system running.

Over-the-counter software can't always fix what humans f*ck up. As long as
their are humans, I feel secure in my job!

raylopez99 said:
Two posts from the Wall Street Journal: the importance of bad
software as a scape goat, and why IT professionals (and as software
becomes more ubiquitous, perhaps programmers) are dinosaurs.

Interesting about the second story the reporter suggests
'networking' (office politics--'Eat lunch with the regular people') as
a panacea (!)--how typical for a smoozing reporter to say that, but
with Indian and Chinese programmers all coming on board and as the API
becomes easier to work with, perhaps all US/OECD programmers will
become part of the 'service economy' (a.k.a office politics, or how
most people make money in big corporations, dealing with trivial intra-
corporation daily brushfires of their own or others doing).

RL

August 27, 2008, 12:18 am
J. Crew Blames Software for Its Bad Quarter
Most retailers are blaming a slowing economy for their fiscal
shortcomings. J. Crew is blaming a botched system upgrade.

The clothing company Tuesday announced that income for the quarter was
down 12% from the year-ago quarter to $18.1 million. J. Crew also
lowered its per-share earnings guidance for the year to $1.44 to $1.54
from $1.70 to $1.75. The culprit was a project to upgrade the software
it uses to process orders from its Web site that went astray, the
company said.

The new system went live on June 28, the problems began almost
immediately. “We experienced issues related to the site performance,
order fulfillment, and call center performance,†Jim Scully, the
company’s CFO said on a call with analysts.

Just what did he mean by issues? The site has been down periodically
since June, costing the company untold sales and frustrating
customers, at least the customers who post on blogs and message
boards. And we’ve read reports about botched orders and returns: In
one case, a man was charged $9,200 for shipping and handling for three
baby-sized shirts – he had ordered men’s medium – and then couldn’t
get the Web site to process his attempt to return the goods, according
to the man’s blog.

J. Crew said it spent about $3 million in the just-completed quarter
to fix the problem, and made numerous public apologies, which J. Crew
fan blogs have been tracking pretty closely.

There was a wave of businesses blaming poor results on tech-projects-
gone-bad in the early part of the decade. We haven’t seen it much
lately, though.

One difference: Nike, Hershey and others that had problems in the past
went out of their way to blame the tech vendor. J. Crew never once
tried to pass the buck. The company didn’t respond to our requests for
comment, which also means we don’t know which company sold the
offending technology. You can search the Web for “J. Crew†and
“systems†and find the names of several companies J. Crew buys
software from, but there’s not enough evidence for us to point a
finger.

Comments
Report offensive comments t
It would be interesting to know the software vendor and implementation
team (staff or outsourced) responsible for the issues J. Crew is
facing. It may be more interesting however to determine the flawed
process the company went by in “upgrading†their web-site. Most
companies go through rigorous testing phase prior to launching a new
site - particularly one that will take the place of a working
ecommerce site.

On a side note - I just tested the site and was unable to put
something in my shopping cart. Instead I got this error message, “We
are unable to process your request at this time. Please try a little
later.â€

Seems they may still have some work to do.

Comment by MBridge - August 27, 2008 at 2:29 am
Post a Comment
=

August 22, 2008, 6:00 am
Tech Pros: The Next Dinosaurs?
Information technology pros will go extinct if they don’t start
thinking about their jobs differently.

Will tech pros end up like the dinosaurs?
This edgy, but decreasingly controversial, opinion belongs to Rebecca
Wettemann, an analyst at Nucleus Research. To Wettemann, it’s the
logical consequence of two interrelated trends: the average worker
becoming more tech savvy, and tech companies realizing that appealing
directly to workers is as – if not more – important than appealing to
IT management.

There was a time when IT departments could get away with forcing
employees to use complicated and hard-to-use software. The average
worker didn’t know that better alternatives were out there. But as
workers gain experience with consumer-focused software – either in
their personal lives or at the office – they’re starting to realize
that software can be easy to use and quick to get started on. It
started with productivity boosters like instant messaging and
collaboration software, but it’s crept into the realm of software
that’s traditionally the realm of IT departments, such as sales
automation.

“No CIO is going to tell me that [a software project] is going to take
12 to 18 months,†Wettemann tells us. Workers will just find an
alternative on their own.

IT can try to shut down these rogue projects, but over the long run
resistance is futile, Wettemann says. Instead, IT needs to reinvent
itself. From now on, an IT pro’s “job is to pay attention to what is
going on out there with the humans in your organization, not the
servers,†she says. Managing tech equipment and maintaining older
systems will become decreasingly important. Identifying the best new
tools early on and figuring out how to get them into the hands of the
people they’ll benefit will be the more important skill.

And because it’s impossible for one person to identify every promising
new technology, the IT guys who take on this responsibility will have
to rely on workers to be their eyes and ears. How does a tech pro do
that? “Get out of the data center,†Wettemann tells us. “Eat lunch
with the regular people.â€

-Ben Worthen
 
P

Peter Morris

But perhaps your standards are too high Peter?

I do have very high standards. In fact they are so high that I don't
achieve them myself :) However, that doesn't change the fact that there
are so many people with standards that are far too low!

the rule that the more people you add to a project, the slower the rate of
growth for
completing the project (but hopefully though not the time to complete
the project, otherwise it's better not to add the extra people).

I am about to start a contract. It was estimated at 6 months work for 1
person. Someone suggested it could be done in 3 if they contracted me to
help, 2 if they got an additional employee, and maybe 1 if they had 6 people
working on it. I laughed :)

Or not, as you point out yourself in this thread.

Whenever the UK goverment introduces a new software app it always costs
millions or billions (that's American billions). I have no idea where the
money goes! How can it possibly be justified? If there were a thousand
people working on the project in total they could all get paid half a
million each and still have 50% of the money left for investors!


Pete
 
R

raylopez99

Whenever the UK goverment introduces a new software app it always costs
millions or billions (that's American billions).  I have no idea where the
money goes!  How can it possibly be justified?  If there were a thousand
people working on the project in total they could all get paid half a
million each and still have 50% of the money left for investors!

Well I used to work in a corporation where at the end of the year my
boss would tell me to spend my budget, whether I needed to or not,
since otherwise the controller would give him less money for the next
year. So maybe this principal is at work. Like the roadside sign,
"Men At Work", and you pass 12 guys with hardhats with only one really
working; the others are "supervising". Make work for programmers
maybe?

Good luck with your project.

RL
 
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S

SpotNet

I would not regard the Wall Street Journal as a credible source of information,
and journalism. Sounds like this article came off the top of the reporters head
(which is usual, unless they're given an article to rewrite). I think Journalist
are becoming the dinosaurs as I can get better quality news, current affairs,
articles, commentaries, video footage, ...etc off YouTube than the Radio, TV, News
Papers, articles, and any other 'Today as it Happens' type of news paper insert
done by any journalist, I mean scriber.

- SpotNet

Two posts from the Wall Street Journal: the importance of bad
software as a scape goat, and why IT professionals (and as software
becomes more ubiquitous, perhaps programmers) are dinosaurs.

Interesting about the second story the reporter suggests
'networking' (office politics--'Eat lunch with the regular people') as
a panacea (!)--how typical for a smoozing reporter to say that, but
with Indian and Chinese programmers all coming on board and as the API
becomes easier to work with, perhaps all US/OECD programmers will
become part of the 'service economy' (a.k.a office politics, or how
most people make money in big corporations, dealing with trivial intra-
corporation daily brushfires of their own or others doing).

RL

August 27, 2008, 12:18 am
J. Crew Blames Software for Its Bad Quarter
Most retailers are blaming a slowing economy for their fiscal
shortcomings. J. Crew is blaming a botched system upgrade.

The clothing company Tuesday announced that income for the quarter was
down 12% from the year-ago quarter to $18.1 million. J. Crew also
lowered its per-share earnings guidance for the year to $1.44 to $1.54
from $1.70 to $1.75. The culprit was a project to upgrade the software
it uses to process orders from its Web site that went astray, the
company said.

The new system went live on June 28, the problems began almost
immediately. “We experienced issues related to the site performance,
order fulfillment, and call center performance,” Jim Scully, the
company’s CFO said on a call with analysts.

Just what did he mean by issues? The site has been down periodically
since June, costing the company untold sales and frustrating
customers, at least the customers who post on blogs and message
boards. And we’ve read reports about botched orders and returns: In
one case, a man was charged $9,200 for shipping and handling for three
baby-sized shirts – he had ordered men’s medium – and then couldn’t
get the Web site to process his attempt to return the goods, according
to the man’s blog.

J. Crew said it spent about $3 million in the just-completed quarter
to fix the problem, and made numerous public apologies, which J. Crew
fan blogs have been tracking pretty closely.

There was a wave of businesses blaming poor results on tech-projects-
gone-bad in the early part of the decade. We haven’t seen it much
lately, though.

One difference: Nike, Hershey and others that had problems in the past
went out of their way to blame the tech vendor. J. Crew never once
tried to pass the buck. The company didn’t respond to our requests for
comment, which also means we don’t know which company sold the
offending technology. You can search the Web for “J. Crew” and
“systems” and find the names of several companies J. Crew buys
software from, but there’s not enough evidence for us to point a
finger.

Comments
Report offensive comments t
It would be interesting to know the software vendor and implementation
team (staff or outsourced) responsible for the issues J. Crew is
facing. It may be more interesting however to determine the flawed
process the company went by in “upgrading” their web-site. Most
companies go through rigorous testing phase prior to launching a new
site - particularly one that will take the place of a working
ecommerce site.

On a side note - I just tested the site and was unable to put
something in my shopping cart. Instead I got this error message, “We
are unable to process your request at this time. Please try a little
later.”

Seems they may still have some work to do.

Comment by MBridge - August 27, 2008 at 2:29 am
Post a Comment
=

August 22, 2008, 6:00 am
Tech Pros: The Next Dinosaurs?
Information technology pros will go extinct if they don’t start
thinking about their jobs differently.

Will tech pros end up like the dinosaurs?
This edgy, but decreasingly controversial, opinion belongs to Rebecca
Wettemann, an analyst at Nucleus Research. To Wettemann, it’s the
logical consequence of two interrelated trends: the average worker
becoming more tech savvy, and tech companies realizing that appealing
directly to workers is as – if not more – important than appealing to
IT management.

There was a time when IT departments could get away with forcing
employees to use complicated and hard-to-use software. The average
worker didn’t know that better alternatives were out there. But as
workers gain experience with consumer-focused software – either in
their personal lives or at the office – they’re starting to realize
that software can be easy to use and quick to get started on. It
started with productivity boosters like instant messaging and
collaboration software, but it’s crept into the realm of software
that’s traditionally the realm of IT departments, such as sales
automation.

“No CIO is going to tell me that [a software project] is going to take
12 to 18 months,” Wettemann tells us. Workers will just find an
alternative on their own.

IT can try to shut down these rogue projects, but over the long run
resistance is futile, Wettemann says. Instead, IT needs to reinvent
itself. From now on, an IT pro’s “job is to pay attention to what is
going on out there with the humans in your organization, not the
servers,” she says. Managing tech equipment and maintaining older
systems will become decreasingly important. Identifying the best new
tools early on and figuring out how to get them into the hands of the
people they’ll benefit will be the more important skill.

And because it’s impossible for one person to identify every promising
new technology, the IT guys who take on this responsibility will have
to rely on workers to be their eyes and ears. How does a tech pro do
that? “Get out of the data center,” Wettemann tells us. “Eat lunch
with the regular people.”

-Ben Worthen
 

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