If you've read some of my other essays, you know that I can be very opinionated and critical sometimes. Well, this is one of those times. Of those who know the project I'm about to describe, I suspect that more would agree than disagree with my assessments, but even those who agree would probably say I'm being too harsh. Too bad. I doubt that anyone would claim this project wasn't a trial for all concerned, and I dare anyone to claim they were affected by all the BS more than I was. I've damn well earned the right to say what I'm about to say, with two years of misery and lost time. If you don't want to read what I have to say when I'm at my nastiest, you're most definitely at the wrong page and should immediately surf just about anywhere else.
The following is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real persons or events - and in particular to persons or events associated with the MPFS/HighRoad project at EMC - is purely coincidental. If you're a lawyer working for or on behalf of EMC, go back to blowing goats or whatever you usually do, and leave decent people alone.
The project combined the worst of small-company and large-company work situations. On the one hand we had the "do or die" pressure and resource limitations of a small company; on the other we had the red tape and factional infighting of a large one. The project team was split between two organizations for development and three for QA, with totally inadequate coordination or communication between them.
One of the team's original and senior members was a certifiable sociopath. Everyone knew this. Something that consistently amazes me about large organizations is the way that everyone individually can know something about a technology or a project or a process or a person, but institutionally no recognition is made and no action is taken. So it was in this case. Everyone knew that this individual was simply toxic to his group and to the project, and yet he was left alone to keep spreading his poison for the duration. It's the single biggest failure of personnel management that I've ever witnessed.
The team's so-called "technical leader" was hardly any better. In addition to failing in his responsibility to do something about the previous problem, he created a few of his own:
(Lest anyone misunderstand, based on the space devoted above to these two individuals, the technical leader was only the second-worst waste of flesh on the planet He was only able to do more damage than the sociopath because of his elevated position.)
The predictable net result of all this for the company was a product that fell far short of its original promise and potential. That's not to say it's a bad product. It still does something that almost nothing else does, performs well, and will provide substantial benefit to users. But it could have been a great product, and it turned out to be merely "kinda neat". Most of the people involved in its development - including me, the sociopath, and the technical leader - have not hesitated to wash their hands of it and move on, and if you've ever done professional software development you know what that means.
In computing there is nothing so sad as a perfectly good technical idea tarnished by a poor implementation, or by factors that are not technical at all. This project serves as an excellent example of how not to run a project or an organization, or of how to produce substandard software while simultaneously alienating as many people as possible. Only in terms of those goals can it be considered a success.
Copyright (C) 2001, Jeffrey J Darcy. All rights reserved. In particular the right to distribute this to anyone at EMC, its agents or assigns, and especially the goat-blowing lawyers mentioned earlier, is specifically withheld. If anyone at EMC starts giving me crap for this, I'll start to ask how they even know about it.