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Episode 15: On-site Customer

'I've been thinking,' the Boss tells me. Alarm bells start going off at this point.

I'm sitting in his office, with a strong cup of coffee and a pile of bug reports that he's asked me in to discuss. Most of these reports are, well, bollocks with a smidgen of crap thrown in to leaven the mixture.

'About what?' I venture finally, realising that stony silence is going to get me nowhere.

'Why don't we get an on-site customer involved?'


He looks a little bit alarmed. 'All the best development methodologies recommend…'

'A customer? A customer?'

'It'll help us to…'

'Do you know what you're asking? Do you?' I demand, my voice rising faster than my blood pressure.

'Calm down,' the Boss tells me soothingly. 'It's just an idea.'

'It won't work.'

The Boss smiles. 'Come on, Joe,' he says, 'how can you be so sure? And besides, think of the benefits.'


He leans back in his comfy leather chair and adopts that elder statesman expression he normally reserves for the company newsletter or the occasional press release. 'An on-site customer means that the development team can get requirements direct, there's no need to slow things down. It means that the software matches the user expectations rather than what the developer thinks the users want.'

It's my fault. Like an idiot I let him peek over my shoulder while skimming an XP web site. Next thing he'll be trying to get us to pair program again, even though some of my team are still having hospital treatment from the last time we tried it.

'But that's just theory,' I respond.

'No it's not, Joe,' he insists. 'It's industry best-practice now. We just need to get a suitable user in place and he can sit in as part of your development team.'

I'm about to respond when realisation dawns. 'You said he,' I point out.

'Did I?' he says, innocently. 'Sorry, force of habit old man. I meant he or she, obviously.'

'Which he?' I demand.


'Come on,' I insist, 'who's been lined up for this.'

'Norman Boggis,' the Boss whispers.

'Stormin' Norman Boggis?'

The Boss nods gravely.


'Because it'll be good for our development proc…'

It's my turn to put on a look. I wear my best 'don't bullshit me anymore you odious little toad' face until the Boss falls silent.

'What's the story?' I ask.

'He was caught slagging off his boss behind his back,' the Boss whispers.

'But we all slag our bosses off.'

The Boss looks surprised. 'You do?'

I ignore his hurt. 'So what happened with Stormin' Norman?'

'I told you. He was extremely disparaging about Beatrix behind his back.'

It takes a second. 'You mean she was standing behind him when he let rip?'

'Yep. She, along with every other member of the Business Intelligence team, heard every syllable. Though as I understand things most words he used were low on the syllable count.'

'So now he's being kicked out of the group and in with my lot…'

'Sorry. Once things have cooled down…'

'You mean once one of them leaves the company?'


'Think of the benefits,' I tell my team.

They look at me askance.

'What benefits might these be?' Alison demands.

'He carries the can when projects over-run, when quality's crap or when we're swallowed up in feature creep,' I explain patiently.

'But doesn't that mean he takes the credit when things are good?' Rice points out.

'True. Which is why he's going to be working with Alison on the new document management system query application.'

Alison's face clouds over. 'That's almost done. It's a good bit of work and…'

'Which is why we have to hand it to Norman. You've made too many decisions on this without proper customer involvement.'

The stunned silence makes me smile. Now they're wearing that 'don't bullshit me you odious little toad' expression.

'So,' I continue. 'Re-do the front screens, make them black and white, drop the colours. Drop the nice fonts and replace them with Courier or something more painful. Get rid of the toolbar. You know the stored procedures on the database? Skip them and use raw SQL. Now, have I missed anything?'

Alison smiles. 'I put in a cache without checking first…'

'Ditch it.'

Kevin raises a hand. 'That combo box to make selection easier…'

Alison smiles. 'I'll ditch it.'

I sit back and ponder. Sometimes my team just know how to work together like pros…

Who Is Joe Bloggs? Read other episodes here

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