Victimized by Unhealthy Software (a first-hand account)

Anyone in Marketing, Product Management, Executive Management, Engineering Management… in fact ANYONE working for a software company needs to be victimized by terrible software at least once.

That way, they hopefully learn NOT to create any more of it.

Here’s my own personal story of pain and suffering.

Software Pain

The Pain of Horrible Software

Picture it… Cupertino, December 1992.  I’m leading a small team of database consultants at the HP test facility. We’re:

  • about to build one of the largest Sybase database in the world
  • using the largest and most powerful Unix server in the commercial world (a fully tricked out multi-million dollar mainframe class HP T500)
  • using Sybase’s brand-new System 10 database
  • doing a project for one of the largest privately held companies in the world
  • facing a “hard” December 24 deadline to configure, load, tune and successfully test the system.

Timeline of Pain:

  • Dec. 22: we finish loading the database after two weeks of data loading, indexing, preliminary testing and tuning. We are flying high.
  • Dec. 22 7pm: We back the database up TWICE in case something awful happens.
  • Dec. 23 7am: Time to run the benchmark tests to prove project success. We’re pumped.
  • Dec. 23 2pm: The database corrupts itself, giving the famous “605” error..which means…”you’re screwed”.
  • Dec. 23 3pm: Official dagnosis: the database is a Humpty Dumpty. It fell off the wall and nothing will put it back together again. It’s scrambled itself (due to some bug in the product). You’d better have a backup somewhere.
  • Dec. 23 3:01pm: We fire up the Restore utility. Restore will take many hours, but we will be able to finish by the 12/24 deadline.
  • Dec. 23 3:02pm: Restore utility refuses to work.
  • Dec. 23 4pm: Not even the Sybase engineers can get Restore to work. We find out that Restore had never been thoroughly tested and doesn’t really work. That feature was at the end of the development process and got rushed out the door, incomplete.
  • Months later: We find out that large Sybase databases all over the place had the “randomly self-corrupting” feature turned on. And the Restore utility complemented that by having the “fail when the customer really needs it” feature turned on.

The net effect was weeks worth of work was wasted. A multi-million dollar project that had taken a team of people nine months to get to the point of final customer signature was in serious jeopardy.  And to make it worse, I had to go back to Chicago and take the bullet for the failure.

If you think software quality doesn’t count, you’ve never been on the receiving end of bad software.

Bad software drives away customers & prospects and destroys companies.

Mostly it destroys companies that made the software. Don’t let yours be one of them.

Bad software is bad marketing.

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