Documents before products

Subject: Documents before products
From: John Ahlstrom <jahlstro -at- CISCO -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 11 Mar 1997 17:31:56 -0800

A couple of days ago someone wrote a pitiful
lament and a wonderful response to the problem
it lamented. Something like:
My boss said I have to have this
thing documented and the code is not
even writtent yet. When I asked "How?",
he said, "Make reasonable guesses."

If I could I would write:
"If you type any key, your computer will
crash. If you call our technical support,
they will blame Microsoft."

A marvelous response to a horrifying situation.

In a better world, or at a better company or
in your current company with a better development
process, you and the developers (and the testers)
would be simultaneously
working from a functional specification that included
user inputs and GUIs, you to document them, the
developers to create them, the testers to develop
test plans. The developers would not always
create exactly what was in the spec, but they would
communicate the changes to you as they were made
and you would finish very closely together.

The economic and time value of such "process" is
not widely appreciated and apparently rarely used,
but if there
is real understanding of all the work that must be
done before a product can be shipped, it can usually
be approximated in all but the most anarchic
environments.

John (always the optimist) Ahlstrom
jahlstrom -at- cisco -dot- com

As a software development strategy,
anarchy does not scale well.
Dave Welch

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