General Musing

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Dealing with Software Vendor Failure for Vendors #risk

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I have a confession, I am a former software vendor, I’ve worked for software vendors as a consultant, and I’ve been guilt of delivering a solution which didn’t work as advertised. This is sadly an all too common occurrence which can be due to many things which I will not be discussing here. Here I will identify some of the common pitfalls that all vendors face, and what can be done to reduce and mitigate the risks these pose.

There are a number of pitfalls that a vendor can fall into when addressing the issue or the customer, Groopman calls[1] these the 3 A’s:

  • anchoring
  • availability
  • attribution

The Pitfalls

Your first instinctive reaction when being presented with an issue can be a compelling elegant simple solution and can often be right. And sometimes the solutions are completely wrong, and you can become increasingly convinced of the truth of this misjudgment, and developing a psychological commitment to it. You can become wedded to a distorted conclusion. This is anchoring, your opinion is like an anchor weighing you down. Also referred to as paradigm paralysis: the inability or refusal to see beyond the current models of thinking.

Errors of availability are also common to make, every other customer has this issue which you solve in a certain way and you simply apply Ockham’s razor to this customer. It is the simplest solution, they must also have this issue. This can mean that you ignore certain signals that don’t fit in your diagnosis, perhaps it is a simple issue and perhaps it’s a case of search satisfaction: you expected to find something, find something and stop searching rather than finishing your search.

Attribution can be as simple as believing that the customer is a complainer, and so it’s not as bad as they are saying. The argument that: “it’s a not a bug, it’s a feature” is also an attribution error.

The Solution

There are 3 easy solutions to resolve these pitfalls, these are the 3 Cs:

  • communication
  • critical reasoning
  • compassion

Consider that there are ofter many unknowns with issues, so with the knowledge of the pitfalls apply critical reasoning to what you’re thinking. Communicate correctly with you customer, get it clear what the issue is, what the possible solutions will be, and if appropriate what the price is. And show compassion, they most probably rely on you and your software to get their job done. Which means that when it fails they can’t do their jobs.

  1. How Doctors Think – Jerome Groopman, MD

Image source: Sebastian Fritzon

Written by Daniël W. Crompton (webhat)

January 20, 2012 at 10:29 pm

Posted in business, programming, risk

Tagged with , ,

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