Misleading headlines – don’t you love them?

The Australian IT on Tuesday had a “lovely article”:http://australianit.news.com.au/articles/0,7204,18994350%5E15306%5E%5Enbv%5E,00.html?from=rss on the Trellis system rollout in WA – specifically, how it was a “Big Java Job [that was] blasted on blowout”. The implication, of course, was that Java was to blame.

However, the problems that plagued this project were not technology, but skills and competence. Straight from the article:

* it was initiated in 1999 and didn’t go live until 2004 – multi year projects without staged delivery have been argued against for over 30 years.
* There was no business case approved in advance – this meant that they didn’t have any clear guides on when to stop.
* it was to replace the existing licensing sytem – the two couldn’t live side by side, which meant a big-bang delivery. Another symptom of this was the need to sanitise the data before the rollout.
* Lack of regression testing or design for change – the incompatabilty between 2.1 and 3.0 is the obvious example.
* Lack of good QA – “combination[s] of user, data validation, andsystem processing errors”
* Insufficent automation of migration – “Only 6 million out of 20 million” records cleansed – Why? Also another example of bad QA.
* Bad performance – 6.5 million transactions/year = ~4000/hour (assuming 200 work days, 8 hours per work day), or a little over 1 a second. Where was the performance testing to see if it could handle the load?
* Out-of-control “maintainence spending” – $2.8 million in the first year. This either represents massive quality problems (bugs to fix), poor analysis (features that were needed and forgotten about) or large scope creep – or more likely a combination of all three.

At the same time, if only “1.25% of the revenue Trellis collects” is going into maintainence, that’s very cheap, all things considered.

Author: Robert Watkins

My name is Robert Watkins. I am a software developer and have been for over 20 years now. I currently work for people, but my opinions here are in no way endorsed by them (which is cool; their opinions aren’t endorsed by me either). My main professional interests are in Java development, using Agile methods, with a historical focus on building web based applications. I’m also a Mac-fan and love my iPhone, which I’m currently learning how to code for. I live and work in Brisbane, Australia, but I grew up in the Northern Territory, and still find Brisbane too cold (after 22 years here). I’m married, with two children and one cat. My politics are socialist in tendency, my religious affiliation is atheist (aka “none of the above”), my attitude is condescending and my moral standing is lying down.

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