Friday 16 January 2009

No Pain No Gain?

For the past couple of days I've been helping out a friend get a new team organized, and during our of discussions in their canteen, I overheard something that epitomizes the complexity-aholics that really drive me mental.

A couple of data architects were talking about a consolidation project they were kicking off. "Can you believe what they're doing in the Japanese office? Their schema is so basic" one complained to the other. "Yeah, they clearly don't know what they're doing" his colleague replied, "they should leave it up to us." A couple more minutes of the same and I couldn't really let it go.

Deep breath...

Gathering up my most diplomatic tone, I asked the resident geniuses: "OK lads, if you're saying that they have a basic, simple solution which meets the business requirements, and you have a complex, difficult solution which meets the business requirements - then isn't it you who have something to learn from them?"

You see this is why I don't have any friends.

But seriously, what's the attraction to building big, creaky, behemoth solutions where something easy and elegant would meet everybody's expectations? Why is it that we seem to derive satisfaction from making our lives hard? Unless you're very lucky (lazy?), you'll have to troubleshoot, maintain, and support whatever you put in place.

I've noticed before that good engineers can build vast systems with webs of dependencies and many moving parts, but it's the great engineers who realize that this is a bad idea.

Outside of the gym, there are very few places in the world where you'll be better rewarded for increasing the effort necessary to achieve a given outcome.

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