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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Buzzword-maisters and the bad manager

Reading a
very "true" post in 37signals about our industry's preference and dependency on buzzwords I came to think of my own experience with buzzword-maisters and their terrible destruction path.

It seems to me that in our industry managers think they are smart but are very often tricked into choosing a particular technology/product just because some buzzword-maister sales person told them to instead of trusting the people that work with them and know (very often) more than they do.
What is more frustrating is that the buzzword-maisters success seems to be higher when he uses less-known buzzwords. It goes like this: if you want to sell something, use a lot of buzzwords and you will get more customers the more buzzwords they don't know.

A very good example is a guy I know who chose to use Java in his project after attending a seminar about web applications. Now, that in itself is not wrong, he trusted someone and went with their advice. However, when you start to dig down into his choices you start seeing the buzzword-maister dependency symptoms all over.

This guy did not know anything about Java (he was an old-school programmer) and instead of hiring a web application or going with a widely used java web application environment (Tomcat + MVC framework + database) he started talking about the "standard enterprise solutions" that are "best practices" in other companies and deliver "scalability" and "reliability" as well as "componentization" for free - he was talking about JBoss and Enterprise Java Beans.

Of course, at that point this "tricked" manager started hiring Java programmers (seems logical), Java Architects and the likes. So, he is "tricked" by a buzzword-maister and builds his whole team around the buzzword-maister's advice. This leads to a death trap: now you have a whole lot of expensive programmers and architects (notice that buzzwords often go with expensive bills) but his application is so small that most of the time spent by his expensive team is preparing the platform but delivering very little end user value.

The end result is that his team delivered a relatively small application with a 18 months project and a lot of expensive hardware and software.

Should he have decided to hire a very good web-developer and trust her with the language and platform choice (after knowing what it was for) he would probably have delivered 2-3 new versions of the application and have a smaller yet more productive (also less expensive) team by now.

The moral of the story is: if you ever face a buzzword maister you have only one good thing to do. Politely ask him to shut-up before you lose too much money.

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