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Just Do It

I started out programming in precisely this atmosphere, developing routine business applications on fixed-price contracts. We didn't need clairvoyance to see that much of the time we were solving the same problems over and over again. It did not take rocket science to conclude that a library of reusable components for basic business data processing operations would make it possible to build systems faster and more cheaply. But management wouldn't let us take the time to program the library. Billable time ruled all. We didn't have the time to build infrastructure, top management argued, we just had to cut code and ship software.

So we went ahead and built the library anyway, creating new components for it in the course of completing other projects. Sure, we sometimes slipped schedules, but then we almost always did. And eventually we had our library and began to demonstrate substantial gains in productivity. In reality, you don't need permission to do your job well. If you know that a project estimate is unrealistic, then cutting corners in analysis and design won't help. One way or another, now or later, you will take the hit. Since fuller understanding of the problem and better design are apt to cut development costs in the long haul, acting as if you had the time may often be the best strategy. The long-term cost to software vendors and in-house developers of delivering poor software, inevitably slipping the shipping date anyway, is certainly more than the cost of delivering good software even if it is late. As they say, if you don't have time to do it right, when are you going to get the time to do it over?


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