EppsNet Archive: Tim Lister

Gathering Requirements

The most common verb associated with requirements is “gather.” Yet most requirements that end up fulfilled in a system aren’t gathered. Yes, I know, there are always a few requirements that are so obvious in a new system that you can “gather” them from stakeholders, but gathering implies that the requirements are already out there, fully formed and fully understood, and ready for harvest. It just doesn’t work that way. No stakeholder ever says to an analyst, “Requirements? Why, yes, I have eleven requirements. Eight are functional, one is a usability requirement, and the other two are operational requirements. Are you collecting constraints now, as well? I have three of those. Please sit down, and I will elucidate perfectly clearly on each and every one in turn.” Most requirements are discovered–or invented. Many are transformed or compromised along the way. Most stakeholders don’t consider the underlying requirements of their work;… Read more →


And the Gileadites took the passages of Jordan before the Ephraimites: and it was so, that when those Ephraimites which were escaped said, Let me go over; that the men of Gilead said unto him, Art thou an Ephraimite? If he said, Nay; Then said they unto him, Say now Shibboleth: and he said Sibboleth: for he could not frame to pronounce it right. Then they took him, and slew him at the passages of Jordan: and there fell at that time of the Ephraimites forty and two thousand. — Judges 12:5-6 Thus the original meaning of the word “shibboleth”: a password that people from one side can pronounce but their enemies can’t. The word has since taken on a more general meaning as not necessarily a password, but a custom or practice that separates the good guys from the bad guys, the insiders from the outsiders. Read more →

Management 101: How to Demoralize Your Top Performers Into Early Retirement

Sanders quit because Lions weren’t winning — ESPN.com headline Background Barry Sanders, as you may already know, was a running back for the Detroit Lions — one of the best running backs ever. It was shocking news — to the extent that an athlete’s retirement can be considered “shocking” — when Sanders retired in 1998 because, at age 31, he was at the peak of his career, and on the verge of breaking the all-time NFL rushing record. Some Lions fans — to this day — still expect him to change his mind and play again. What Sanders Said Sanders has an “as told to” autobiography coming out, in which he says that he retired, not — as the above headline says — because the Lions weren’t winning (which they weren’t), but because of his realization that the management of the team no longer cared about winning. Big difference. Here’s… Read more →

The Programming Circus

Most of my illustrious career has been spent working or consulting for Fortune 1000 companies. These companies are fundamentally dependent on their computer systems, particularly their online systems, to transact business. If the systems are down, the business stops running. In fact, the systems don’t even have to be down to create havoc. What if the response time is too slow? If you’ve ever done user testing with people whose job it is to enter money-making financial transactions for large corporations, you may have been amazed, as I was, at how fast they are. Obviously then, the software you build for them has to be even faster; split-second response time is required. If your software is slowing people down, the business is losing money. Or what if people are sitting around staring at their monitors because they can’t figure out how that great new interface you gave them is supposed… Read more →