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Ignorant client!

 
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I had a meeting last week with a potential client (Development Manager and Senior Systems Analyst) that has recently "moved to Java".

When I asked them what "moving to Java" meant, they said that they were rewriting some of their legacy applications in Java for their new server environment. It was pretty obvious that they were talking about "plumbing" applications; ex: J2SE batch programs encapsulating business logic to massage data for disparate systems in their enterprise.

In a nutshell, here's what I got out of the interview:

-they were just starting to send employees off on Java training courses (all are COBOL programmers)
-they have a client-server mentality
-they don't fully understand the difference between J2SE and J2EE
-they don't understand the basic tenets of OO
-they had never heard of Design Patterns
-they don't understand what an Application Server is, even though they are running one for a major application (apparently a DBA runs the App Server)
-they don't like or want to use Open Source, even though they use it (ex: Apache and CVS)

So... considering that they seemed to be focused on J2SE, I made some obvious recommendations. And then I asked: "You must have some large scale applications that will be rewritten... what is your plan for those?"

The answer was: "We will offshore the development of all the big projects, and then run them in-house".

The discussion then got a bit scary (for me anyway). Apparently they were about to offshore a project. They showed me high-level specs from the offshoring company -- which outlined plans to use J2EE and EJB. When I asked them if they new what EJB was, they said... No.

So I asked the obvious question: "How do you plan to support J2EE applications with your employees' current skill set?" The answer was basically that the employees would be sent on training courses, and that consultants could come in "for a few months" until they were up-to-speed.

Anyway, to make a long story long, has anyone encountered scenarios like this? I am familiar with legacy systems and people with procedural mentalities, but I find it very odd that senior personel are so clueless. I asked a bit about the CIO and apparently he "doesn't concern himself with technical details".

 
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Wow, what a great opportunity! What does your company do and what were you brought in for?

Here you have a client about to shoot itself in the foot. If you can educate them there's a chance to have great impact. Of course, it's usually an uphill battle (and one most engineers hate to fight) because it has nothing to do with technology and software, but rather organizational behavior.

Conway notes, ?Organizations which design systems are constrained to produce systems which are copies of the communication structures of these organizations.? I think he has a point. More generally, when I see poorly run organizations, I see poorly designed software--and usually visa-versa, too.

Bottom line: it sounds to me like these guys need help. The good consultant can help them, and make some good money doing it.

--mark
 
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Yeah you're pretty lucky, this gives you a chance to be a really good leader! You can do it captain, make it happen!
 
Robert Chisholm
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I think your Conway quote is right on. They definitely have problems with their organizational structure... (I had some contracts there years ago).

To answer your question, I was called in as a development consultant... since I understand legacy systems, as well as the newer technologies; and I've done quite a few conversion-like projects in the past.

I will let you know how it goes... I start tomorrow!
 
Mark Herschberg
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Originally posted by Robert Chisholm:
I think your Conway quote is right on. They definitely have problems with their organizational structure... (I had some contracts there years ago).



If you or they get the sense that they need help in this area, this is some of the consulting work that I do. (and unlike most organizational consultants, I have an IT background.)

--Mark
 
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