Posts in  development


YAGNI: Ask about actual scenarios even if the features seem reasonable.

Reasonable feature requests

It's difficult in software development to shift the focus to problems and goals instead of features, features, features. As I've written about before, it's ideal to focus on the value first, and match the features to the value.

Sometimes we encounter feature requests that seem reasonable enough that we don't feel the need to back track to discover the value. This happens for many reasons:

  • We've encountered similar requests in the past, maybe with other projects, and it seems natural to add it to the current project.
  • We make assumptions about the value of the feature and the feature seems reasonable to attain the value.
  • We assume what scenarios would prompt the request and assume these situations exist.
  • Sometimes this all happens subconsciously!

Ask anyways

However, I've been surprised how many times:

  • What was needed in a past project wasn't actually needed and all of the sudden it's being added to yet another project under the assumption that it was of value historically. This becomes a self-perpetuating problem!
  • What was of value in a past project isn't of value in a current project.
  • The value isn't what we assume it to is, the problem we think we are solving isn't the same as past problems or the goals aren't the same as past goals.
  • The situations we assume exist probably don't, and even if they do, they may not be the same magnitude of a problem as in the past and thus might not require the same type of solution.
  • Past solutions (features) may not have been ideal.

Just ask!

Just this week I encountered a request that upon further inspection was prompted by a subset of the problems in a past project. Subconciously, I almost implemented the feature with the full set of problems in mind from the past. By inquiring about situations that prompted the request, we were able to create a solution that was a subset of the past solution! This reduced the time and money necessary to deliver value to the customer.

TLDR: Even if a feature seems reasonable, ask about the situations that prompted it. I've often been pleasantly surprised :)


Pattern: One Clearly Defined Project At A Time


All the time.


Prefer working on one project at a time. Finish it before moving on to the next. The project should have a definitive start and end centered around clearly defined business objectives.

I don't mean to suggest you shouldn't have multiple projects in your work life. Just prefer to minimize the number within a context, say a team of people working together. That said, there is value in minimizing the number of teams you are involved with :)


A common issue in software development is run on development. This introduces many risks:

  • Failure
  • Budget overrun
  • Infrequent delivery of results
  • Inability to measure success/failure of investment
  • Vestigial feature explosion
  • Incomplete feature explosion
  • Confusion about what the software does
  • Confusion about what the software should do
  • Buggy software
  • Lack of real world feedback
  • Lack of learning - reflection rarely occurs
  • Lack of trust - trust is built on results
  • General sadness for everyone as the work drags on with little or no results :(


Constrain each project based on a set of business objectives. Keep the list short and projects will start and end quickly.

If higher priority objectives arise, decide if they can wait. Ask what the value of doing it now versus a few weeks or months from now. If there's really no value (other than maybe excitement) then wait! If not, then decide what to do with the current project.

In my experience, working on clearly defined projects one at a time means we spend less time on each project, we know when we are done and we can quickly move on to the next highest priority objective. This often negates the need to interrupt a project.

Tips for interrupting a project

  • Replacing objectives - New objectives replace current objectives
    • Craft a project to address the new objectives and in the process discuss what has been done for the current objectives.
    • Determine what should remain
    • Determine what should be removed - if the objectives change there are going to be features that aren't necessary. Get rid of them or be prepared to pay to support them in the long run.
  • Different objectives
    • If at all possible discuss how to wrap up the current project with a subset of the objectives accomplished.
    • If that's not possible, put the work aside and switch gears.
      • Plan a time to come back to the current objectives. It's easy for months and years to pass. These easily become features that you may not get any value from but you pay to support.
      • If new and current objectives affect the same system, discuss removing or setting aside the current work so you can focus solely on the new objectives.

Pattern: Establish Trust First


The first few discussions with a new consultant.


Ease into starting a project with new consultants. First invest in building some trust.


The first discussion is a great opportunity to talk about your business with the consultant. This understanding is invaluable and should be easy to talk about without advanced preparation. In subsequent discussions gradually introduce goals and problems.

Shared understanding is a great way to establish trust. Look for ways a consultant offers value through past experience, advice, and other feedback. This initial value can go a long way towards establishing trust.

Not to mention what it means for a consultant to invest the time to learn about your business and showing interest in what you do. Holding several discussions gives everyone a chance to reflect and bring even more to the table in subsequent discussions. This can be a quick way to weed out consultants that don't have the time to deliver quality solutions.

This is also an opportunity to show the consultant that you are willing to invest the time to build a quality solution.

Wouldn't your rather learn a bit about each other to see if the relationship will be a good fit?


  • Make the first meeting only about your business.
  • Subsequent meetings can lead into objectives (goals and problems).
  • Assess the trust you have established, keep notes!
  • Avoid talking about solutions in these meetings. Solutions in software development often take significant time to develop. Work on establishing the trust necessary to justify investing time in devising solutions.
  • Avoid talking about costs in these meetings. Costs are unknown before a thorough analysis of solutions. Instead talk about pricing methodology to determine if it will fit into an investment model you are comfortable with.

Pattern: Reduced Risk Initial Project


The first few projects with a new consultant.


While taking on the risk of working with a new consultant, minimize other risks including time, complexity and low value. Nothing builds trust like a completed project that meets your objectives!


  • Minimize Time - Work with the consultant to identify a project that can be completed within a time-line that is quick for your organization. I would recommended something around a month or less.
  • Avoid asking "Can X be done within a month?" Instead let the consultant identify the time-frames and compare relative time-frames to find the quickest projects.
  • Ensure that quick does not mean rushed. Quick means there isn't a large time investment. Rushed means efforts will be doubled up which actually increases risk.
  • Stick to a simple objective with clearly defined value and simple measures to gauge progress. This will lead to a much more definitive end of the project.
  • Maximize Value - Make sure the project is of high value. It's exponentially more difficult to build trust if there's not much value to be gained from the relationship. High value leads to better commitment on both sides. Honestly, I never recommend low value projects, I've never found a company short on high value projects but I've seen plenty of low value projects get in the way.
  • Avoid Complexity - If you have a set of projects that seem equal in value and time, pick the least complicated project. Complexity almost always leads to unknown risks.
  • Be prepared to discuss several sets of objectives to see which project minimizes these risks the most.


  • Complex, higher value projects will have to wait.

Antipattern: Mediating Involvement


Mediating involvement happens when information flows from person A to B to C, where A and C rarely talk directly. A & C could be individuals or a group. In some cases there are multiple Bs!

Think about the telephone game where everyone sits in a circle passing a message around until it comes back to the source. It's often crazy what gets back, even with the best of intentions. Imagine having a conversation back and forth between the first and last person in the circle!


Full disclosure: I've been guilty of being a mediator, it's not about blame, it's about what we can do to avoid these issues:

  • Miscommunication / misunderstanding
    • Even in direct conversation this happens.
    • It's even more likely in complex matters like software development.
  • Lost in translation
    • The mediator is very likely to summarize perspectives. Important aspects can easily be lost.
    • What if there was a miscommunication / misunderstanding in conveying the original information to the mediator?
  • Lack of creativity
    • Less minds = less creativity
    • Can't draw on the experiences of those that aren't involved.
  • Assumptions waste time and resources
    • Sometimes I'll ask a follow up question and a mediator will give me an answer they think is accurate when it's not.
    • Only after the software is built do we find out otherwise... ouch!
  • Unrefined information
    • No ability to carry on a quick back and forth conversation to refine ideas.
  • Huge delays in feedback
    • When it does happen, it often takes days for SIMPLE questions!
  • Follow up fails to happen
    • Follow up always runs this risk, even the most organized of people make mistakes.
    • I've never met a mediator who hasn't failed to follow up multiple times, even on critical issues!
    • Sometimes the mediator doesn't understand the value of following up, so there's no impetus to follow through.

In my experience:

  • Nearly every time someone speaks for someone else, I have a follow up question they can't answer.
  • Nearly every time I think I understood what someone said for someone else, eventually something comes up that was miscommunicated or misunderstood.
  • I've been blown away by the ideas that come from those that are often excluded.
  • The majority of times people say they will follow up I have to ask multiple times or just go to the source directly.
  • Countless times I've had to give up on mediators following up and make assumptions.
  • Most miscommunication / misunderstanding traces back to mediation, it's rarely from direct communication.
  • Software development is complex and time consuming. If it's not worth the time to involve everyone in simple conversations it's not worth the time to be developing the software.


This is very simple to mitigate. When a situation arises where involvement is needed, directly involve the responsible people in a conversation. This can't always happen immediately so keep track of these situations in an area visible to everyone so they can be addressed as soon as possible.

  • Clearly define roles and responsibilities
    • Users, Buyer, Consultant, Stakeholders, Subcontractors etc
    • Introduce everyone as soon as possible
    • Exchange contact information (email, phone etc)
  • Foster a team approach.
  • Everyone should avoid speaking for anyone else.
  • Consultant's shouldn't mediate the involvement of employees and sub contractors.
  • Analysts / managers shouldn't mediate the buyer nor the users.

Why analyzing value gets you results.

It's very common to hear from customers, "What will it cost to build X?" Naturally, I want to understand what X will accomplish. I consider this process understanding the value Y, the desired outcomes. Sometimes customers just demand a cost, but for those that are patient in analyzing the value these are the benefits they will reap:

Optimal solutions

My expertise is custom software development. If I don't know about Y I can't leverage my expertise to propose and build optimal solutions to achieve Y. I also don't have the opportunity to point out deficiencies in X. Imagine someone telling their doctor what medication to prescribe.


If you ask for results, you will likely get them. If you ask for features, there's no guarantee of results.

Significantly less wasted time

If I don't understand Y, when X doesn't accomplish it we'll have to try something else. You would be surprised, but when this happens I usually get requests for changes and new features, again with no guarantee of achieving Y. This has happened on every project I've worked on when Y wasn't discussed. Not only does this waste my time, it wastes yours. We are both stuck with the conundrum of who should pay for this wasted time.

Software development is an involved process, it's not just my time. Success requires your involvement in planning, implementation, user feedback, stakeholder feedback, testing, training and many other aspects. It's easy to overlook/underestimate this time commitment. Either way we both lose if we build failed solutions.

Timely results

If we reduce wasted time, you will get results faster.

Reduced cost

Less wasted time means less cost. Identifying and steering clear of low value projects means more of your money can go to high value projects.


Complexity in software happens naturally, simplicity takes expertise. Simplicity brings a whole host of benefits. If the focus is on features, features (complexity) will be maximized.

Maximum value

If the focus is on value, then value will be maximized! Low value features will take a back seat to higher value features.

Minimized maintenance

In my experience, maintenance cost is exponentially proportional to features. Minimal features means minimal maintenance.

If your business needs to make deliveries you could buy a Lamborghini. However, the cost to maintain it will be much higher than many other equally viable choices.

Flexibility to change

The more features the more difficult it will be to introduce and/or change features in the future. For every feature we must be careful not to "break" it with any updates. Naturally, if we don't minimize features, over time it will become very difficult to introduce change. Ironically, I find the features most likely to get in the way are the ones that aren't even used!

Reduced unused features

Do you want to pay to maintain features you don't use?

If I know Y, when your business changes I can make recommendations about which Xs can be removed. If not, in my experience, they never get removed.

Here's a great post on why less code is better.

Reduced training cost

The more features, the harder it is for users to learn to use your software. Keeping things simple for users means less training. Training cost is proportional, probably exponentially so, to features.

Pivoting on effectiveness

If we both know the desired outcomes we can devise simple methods to monitor the effectiveness of the resulting features at achieving the outcomes. When features prove ineffective we can alter/remove them and try other strategies.

Disciplined investment analysis

If we discuss value we can compare it to cost and make sure we're both making a wise investment decision. Without this analysis it's very easy to propose features that can lead to a marginal or negative ROI. In business it takes extreme discipline to make an investment decision. All too often I see everyone wrapped up in features and value takes a back seat. If we make this our focus, it's less likely to happen and you are more likely to see a significant ROI.

Increased investment capacity

This analysis will naturally take longer the first few times it's done. Over time everyone will become more effective and efficient and the time will be significantly reduced. The capacity to make wise investment decisions in software will be magnified!

Free investment analysis

There's ample opportunity for any company to invest in high value projects. Low value work competes for limited resources to develop high value projects. Low value work is unlikely to make you happy, at least not compared to high value work. If you demonstrate an interest in maximizing value, it means we're much more likely to have a successful business relationship and we're both much more likely to prosper. Because of this I provide this analysis process for free. When we're done you will still make the decision if we move forward. That means before I charge a penny you will already be guaranteed to get something of value!

Identify missing perspectives

When discussing value we're likely to stumble upon roles that usually aren't involved until much later, if at all. These roles often provide perspectives that can avoid sub optimal solutions before we even start. One of these roles is the buyer, the person who sets the final expectations of outcomes. Imagine how difficult it is to achieve an expectation for someone you've never met! Also, users of the resulting software are often left out. For example, if we're trying to save time or expand capacity, doesn't it seem like a good idea to involve the person that does the work now?

It's very easy to identify missing roles when we discuss value and run into questions that can't be answered.

Reduced risk

All of these benefits can be had by simply investing in an analysis of value. Once you get good at this it's often only a few hours investment per project. Is it worth the risk to skip this step?


Reaction to: Why your users hate Agile development (and what you can do about it)

I stumbled upon this article this morning: Why your users hate Agile development (and what you can do about it).

The article is a great starting point for at least a dozen conversations. Here are some of my ideas to mitigate the risks the article introduced:

  • Have clearly defined projects based on outcomes.
    • A lack of planning leads to run on development.
    • With waterfall, there is an attempt to nail down features up front. With agile, it's about nailing down objectives and outcomes up front.
    • In my opinion, waterfall fails because it usually focuses on features and not outcomes. When the features don't result in the desired outcome, more work must be done. The same thing will happen with agile unless the focus is first on outcomes.
    • What are objectives? Deliverables should not be the objective.
  • Communicate directly
    • Traditional project management encourages indirect communication through layers of bureaucracy. This is very difficult to change. Many people have faith that this saves time.
    • Nearly every time someone speaks for someone else, I have a follow up question they can't answer.
    • Nearly every time I think I understood what someone said for someone else, eventually something comes up that was miscommunicated or misunderstood.
    • I would never be so arrogant to assume that I can speak for someone else as good as they can speak for themselves. Especially on complex matters like software development.
    • Often when speaking for someone else, the speaker fails to consistently identify who let alone why. There is an attempt to sanitize the content to what they think is important, this is often disastrous.
    • Talk directly to avoid wasting time playing a game of telephone.
  • Involve the buyer
    • The article mentioned that users are often uninvolved, I agree, but I also think the buyer is often uninvolved.
    • With the indirect communication in bureaucratic management, the buyer rarely will represent their expectations to everyone involved. Instead someone else speaks for them.
    • The real expectations (outcomes and objectives) will be lost if the person setting them isn't directly communicating with everyone involved.
    • Compound excluding the buyer with a focus on features. We have one translation from the buyer's expectations (outcomes) to a set of features that may achieve the outcome. Then, another translation of the features to the rest of the team (assuming no more layers of indirection).
      • That's two opportunities for a failure of communication to occur.
      • The person translating objectives to features isn't the expert that builds the feature. They rarely have the experience to draw from to maximize achieving the objective, this is yet another risk.
      • Compound that with any miscommunicated features, which will happen between technical and non technical people, and your risk is through the roof.
      • Add in the reverse process for any follow up questions and you have a disaster.
      • The crazy thing is, all you have to do is involve the buyer directly and all of this risk goes away. And you will save everyone time!
  • Learn to plan just enough
    • Teams new to agile often fail to plan enough. Instead of wasteful upfront planning with waterfall, the opposite occurs. Have patience to learn to balance not enough versus too much.
  • Avoid outcome creep
    • Do not take on a large set of outcomes, and do not let outcomes be added to a project.
    • If a higher priority outcome arises mid project, put the current project (outcome) on hold and switch to addressing the new outcome. However, I would strongly advise against this if timeliness is not of value in the new outcome.
  • Make sure regular reflection occurs
    • At least at the end of a project and each iteration within.
    • Everyone should be involved.
    • If you don't study what worked and what didn't how will you improve?
  • Discuss timeliness
    • Time is a feature, it's not always of value.
    • If time is of value, talk about that up front.
    • Talk about WHY it's of value. Is there risk of losing customers to a new competitor?
    • Otherwise, only talk about ideals, that's the best anyone can do.
    • Communicate regularly about status.
    • Realize that all of the above recommendations will reduce risk and thus reduce wasted time.
  • Budget thoughts
    • This is too big a can of worms
    • However, mitigating the risks above should go a long way towards mitigating budget risk.
    • I personally advocate for an up front investment before taking on a project.
      • Take the objectives/outcomes, analyze value and compare it to the estimated cost.
      • If the ROI is negative there is no reason to take on the project.
      • If the ROI is marginal there is no reason to take on the project.
      • Estimated costs in software development are always subject to risk of what will be learned in the process. Even experts learn, there is no way to mitigate this upfront, embrace it.
      • With the risk in the estimated cost, if the value is not several multiples of the cost, why take on the risk?
    • IMO way too much software is developed without justifying the investment.
      • This inhibits everyone's ability to develop high value software.

Deliverables should not be the objective.


This is pretty common in a software development project:

We want BizTalk, .net, ruby, Nodejs, SQL Server, Sharepoint, Oracle... 


This is pretty common too:

We want a table of customers.
We want an export of invoices. 
We want a list of orders. 
We want the ability to apply discounts. 
We want a report of inventory.


This is very rare:

We want to provide more value to our customers.
We want more customers and to do that we may need to increase the frequency of doing X.
We want to increase customer satisfaction.
We want happier employees.
We want to expand Y and to do that we may need to automate Z.

When I hear this, I know I can make a difference.

Be careful what you maximize

This is my opinion:

Deliverables (ie: features, technologies, software) should be a means to an end.


If you want to maximize business value, the end should be a business objective. If you want to maximize features, technologies and software then let those be your ends.

I'd prefer to minimize features, technologies and software. They aren't cheap to maintain!


New ventures

In February I decided to set aside full time development to take an academic journey with some new ideas in software development. It's been a few months and I've consumed some amazing content. Learning is only half of the equation, now I'm thirsty for some feedback! I've decided to pursue two new ventures: value based consulting and developer coaching.

Value based consulting

I'm very interested in what happens when value is more central to the development process. In the past I've worked with very talented people to create highly valuable solutions. But the value was often dependent on the customer asking for the right features. At times we would build amazing support for a requested feature only to find lack luster usage. See my article on why I think this happens: Why objectives and value are important in software development.

I believe the conversation has to shift to diagnosing value first, then prescribing solutions. The first step I will make is to incorporate the ideas of value based pricing. To hold myself accountable to delivering value, not just software. That of course is easier said than done. It will require time to learn and re-engineer the processes I use as a developer. I'm very excited about the possibilities!

Developer coaching

In addition to my passion for innovating in software development, I have a desire to share what I do with others. I want to transform my experiences developing, speaking and training into coaching opportunities. Coaching encompasses a more objective approach to helping a team achieve results. It will be tailored to the goals of each development team and the software they are building.

To start this process I've partnered with JetBrains to offer my experience with several of their products, especially ReSharper. I look forward to partnering with other companies and offering coaching for a variety of topics.

Full City Tech Co.

I've started Full City Tech Co. to bring these ideas to life. Everyone knows I'm a coffee aficionado. Full City is a stage in the roasting process when the beans enter the medium to dark range, in my opinion when the coffee starts to taste good! Likewise, the practices I'm investing in are really rounding out my expertise as a consultant.

I'll keep posting more about my efforts here and on the Full City Tech Co. site. If you're interested in what I'm doing or know someone that might be, feel free to get in touch with me.

A Big Thank You

I want to thank everyone I've worked with at Phoenix Web Group, School District 145, friends and family who have helped me grow and supported me in everything I've done. I look forward to what I can learn and what I can share in return!


Successful software development is about creating value, not software

In my last article “Why objectives and value are important in software development” I gave examples to show that it's important to diagnose before prescribing technical solutions. But what does this entail?

Ask why

Diagnosis can be as simple as asking "why". When someone presents what, ask why. Sometimes the response is more of a what, in which case you may have to dig deeper, keep asking why! This can be like peeling the layers of an onion. At some point you find the center, the core objective.

Successful business objectives create value

Businesses exist to create value. Objectives are guiding principles to create value. For example, most businesses value profit. One objective to create profit may be to expand the customer base. Value is often intangible, for example employee morale. An objective to increase employee morale may be to pursue equitable workload distribution. Objectives are a means to the value (end). Value and objectives are numerous, focusing on them will hone the skills necessary to identify and create value, another reason to ask why.

Assess value

Eventually after peeling back enough layers, you will arrive at a rather fundamental objective.

Let's say someone asks, "Can we generate a PDF of X every night and email it to Y?" Follow up with "Absolutely, but first can we talk about what this will accomplish?" If other people are affected by or invested in the request, involve them too. Make sure to involve the person that will write the check. A typical response might be "Right now John creates this by hand and it consumes a significant amount of time." So we've identified a possible objective, saving time. Again, objectives are a means to an end, in this case it's probably about money.

Objectives often create more than one type of value. Now that you have an understanding of the objective, use it to ask further questions to assess related value. Go grab John and include him too! These are some things you may consider:

  • "How often are there mistakes because it's done by hand?"
  • ask John "Does this drain on your morale?"
  • "How much time will be saved? Over what duration?"
  • ask John "What could you accomplish if you didn't have this burden?"

Involve everyone in this exploration and expand upon what value is desired, quantifying and qualifying it as you go.

Identify investments

With a shared understanding of value, everyone can brainstorm investments in software or otherwise. These options can be analyzed to quantify the level of value they may create and the potential cost. Neither the value nor the cost can be quantified exactly in advance, that's the nature of making investments and taking risk. However, an estimate of a solution without determining if it will create value puts everyone in a much riskier situation. Assessing the value reduces risk.

With enough practice, this approach will hone your ability to make successful investments. Who wouldn't want that?

Also, I'd recommend throwing out any notion of the original request and working from the value to identify solutions. Sadly, the original request is going to bias your thinking, just try not to let it narrow your vision. There are many ways to accomplish an objective and to create value. Keep an open mind to maximize the value.

Further reducing risk with measures

With clearly identified value, the team can find ways to measure how much value is created. In the example above, find a way to measure how much time is saved, count historical mistakes, ask John how we can measure the time or if he already measures it. Measure historically if possible, starting now and going forward. Monitor how things improve (or not). Keep these metrics simple and estimate what it will cost to measure them. Make sure it's worth the investment to measure. A few good measures can help the team improve future value analysis: maybe the value was less than expected, maybe it was more, maybe there was unidentified value.

Maximizing investments

If you don't do this analysis, how can you compare one business investment to another? Some investments are more lucrative than others. Who wouldn't want to tackle the most lucrative of investments first? If you have several pending investments and you've done a value analysis of all of them, you can easily prioritize based on the value!

Since we have a more accurate measure of value and cost, we can prioritize based on ROI. Think about this: if the people who will make the investment have determined that the value they think is possible is low relative to the cost or potentially a negative ROI, why would you make that investment? Likewise, if they have identified a high ROI investment, why wouldn't that be at the top of the list of priorities?

A better approach: objectives first

Though asking why can help you start this process, it's best to start with objectives first. Goals and problems are plentiful, encourage people to track them and bring them to the team as objectives and not as requests. This will eliminate the bias in a particular solution and will eliminate the need to backtrack to the objective.


When doing business, we should assess objectives first, thoroughly ask why, and determine what value we hope to create. Identifying technical solutions should come after, along with an assessment of their value and cost. Successful software development is about creating value, not software.


Why objectives and value are important in software development

I need...

Developers get these requests all the time:

  • I need a table of X that I can sort any which way and export to Excel, can you build that?
  • or I need to generate a pdf of Y, can you build that?
  • or I want a system to reconcile Z, can you build that?
  • or I want a query to pull X, can you build that?

All of these request have a common form, a want/need for a specific technical solution.

Absolutely we can do that

Developers will typically reply absolutely, I'll get started right away! The developer will expend considerable time to fulfill the request. Upon completion, or perhaps earlier if a developer practices iterative releases, the customer realizes what they asked for won't meet their objective. It won't solve their problem or achieve their goal.

Scope creep

Naturally, the customer makes subsequent requests to tweak or replace the original request. Eventually they may arrive at a solution that meets their objective. They may also run out of time and/or money. If they are paying by the hour, the cost keeps rising. If they have a fixed bid, the developer is suffering and/or disputing the changes. Either way someone isn't happy, and that's no fun!

Self prescribing

The above scenario would be akin to being sick and choosing your own medication before going to see your doctor. Then, going to the doctor and saying "I need an antibiotic, can you give me that?" The doctor would administer the drug. Several days later you're still sick, so you go back and ask for a different medication. This repeats until you get better, but maybe you end up dead!

Or, say your hot water stops working in your bathtub. You call a plumber and inquire "I need my water heater replaced, can you do that?" They replace it and that night you still have no hot water. You call them out again and have them replace the faucet in the bathtub. That night, still no hot water!

Maybe these things happen at times, but it's not the norm.

Diagnosis first

Patients rarely will ask a doctor for a particular prescription to their ailment, and even if they do, the doctor will step back and discuss symptoms first. Same thing with a good plumber, they'll ask you why you need your water heater replaced. Either way, the professional is diagnosing the problem before prescribing a solution.

If diagnosis comes first in software development the developer can bring a variety of viable solutions to the table. Discussing objectives first can save a lot of time and money.

Why does this happen?

There are plenty of reasons, chief of which is we all like to be problem solvers. Most of us will try to diagnose our medical and plumbing problems too, we just defer to the doctor/plumber to make the final call.

I think developers encourage this too, we're avid problem solvers and we love a new challenge. Instead of listening first, we prescribe.

Sometimes solutions are repetitive, so naturally customers see patterns and offer suggestions.

Sometimes in the middle of a development effort, a suggested feature seems simple, and it may be, so why not add it?

It also happens when customers are charged by the hour. Instead of paying the developer to diagnose the problem, they can do it themselves and "save money."

Objectives first

No matter what the cause, it's clearly beneficial for developers to practice listening to the customer's objectives first. Developers should thoroughly understand the objectives before prescribing solutions. Customers need to participate by describing their objectives until everyone understands. Once the diagnosis is complete, then everyone can feel free to suggest ideas, but I would recommend deferring to the developer, they are supposed to be the expert after all.