Inconceivable

Google the word "inconceivable" and you'll undoubtedly come across this movie clip from the Princess Bride:

In it, the sinister mastermind Vizzini keeps using the word "inconceivable" to respond to scenarios that are, well, not really that inconceivable". His sword wielding sidekick Inigo Montoya, eventually puzzled by his continued use of the word, questions the Sicilian criminal, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means".

Classic.

And so goes the English language. Fast forward 33 years, and I get a call from this lady from Canada (could be anywhere on the planet, but hey, I'm from Canada, and kind of expected more from my fellow "countryman"!).

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Caller: "Hi, does your software have an employee time tracking system?"

Me: "No, were a construction scheduling and project management system. You need time and attendance software"

Caller: "Well, I'm looking for something more robust".

And with that, she hung up on me.

Nice. So much for Canadians being a polite bunch.


Robust, eh!?

There are several definitions:

  • Strong, healthy, vigorous, strong and rich in flavor or smell.
  • Sturdy.
  • Able to withstand or overcome adverse conditions.

I don't think this is what the caller had in mind. But there is a definition here that pertains to software:

Robust or Robustness:  the ability of a computer system to cope with errors during execution and cope with erroneous input.

So given that definition, how will the caller know if BuildIT is robust or not? She would have to be a career systems analyst or quality assurance specialist, and would have to spend literally hours logged into BuildIT, throwing everything she can into every field that exists, attempting to crash our system or generate invalid or unexpected results.

Of course, having been in business for 20 years, and having employed such people to test, test and retest our system... plus the myriad of users that are logged in every hour of the day throwing data into their user accounts and executing functions... we can confidently make the claim that BuildIT is, well...

Robust :-)

What the caller fails to understand is the inclusion of a particular feature/functionality does not make a software system robust. Similarly, the lack of a particular feature/functionality in a software system is not necessarily a bad thing, especially when that feature is not part of (and not intimately connected to) the core competency and purpose of that system. In fact, in a recent case study with Mike Mitchell Construction in California, too many unused and/or unrelated features in a software system can be a liability, and a detriment to actually getting the system implemented with the team. We refer to such software systems as "bloated", and while "feature rich" sounds like you're getting more for your $$, in reality, you'll be paying more each month for unused features.

I suspect the caller doesn't got to Home Depot, speak to the tools rep about a compound miter saw that doesn't drill holes, and explains to him that she needs something more robust.

Or maybe so?

 Scott Hutchinson
 scott@builditsystems.com
 1 866 585 5050 ext 1