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August 2000

Aesop's FileMaker Fables
by Brian Dunning

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To fully enjoy and realize years of wealth and happiness from this article, download the free companion file: Solution.fp5 (Mac) | Solution.fp5 (Win)

"You'll find your new FileMaker system," began the Consultant, "to sport the most cunning and innovative Graphical User Interface yet deployed on a personal computer."

The Clients oohed and aahed at each other in dreamlike astonishment. "And our animated buttons?" asked one. "Are they in there too?"

Without a word, the Consultant clicked on one of the modern, silvery buttons which performed to the delight of the crowd.

The Clients gasped in wonderment, and in a body, brought down the house with applause and praise. The Consultant rose to his feet and bowed respectfully.

And then he got out of bed. He dressed hurriedly, threw down a Slim Fast, checked that the scruffiness of his beard and the projection of his gut were just right, clipped on his thirty pound keychain and slid down the pole to his 1974 Gremlin.

At the head of the conference table, the Director peered intently at his Powerbook screen. He paused from time to time to check the reaction of the Consultant, who sat chewing gum loudly at the far end of the table, arms crossed defiantly. The Director shook his head and studied the screen some more, clicking here and there experimentally.

"What exactly is this?" asked the Director at last.

The Consultant rolled his eyes visibly. "This is a fully integrated, cross platform asset tracking business database, optimized for a multi-user environment, and designed to your exacting specifications."

"Mph," grunted the Director, and poked around some more. An associate looked over his shoulder and both exchanged a look. "Is this a joke?" asked the Director.

"This is what you asked for," came the dry answer.

"What about all our different interfaces for the different user access levels?" asked the associate.

"And now it begins," groaned the Consultant and threw open his notepad. "You start adding specifications now, after the project's completed, and I'm sure you expect it to be done for free."

"But that's basic to our system's functionality. Aren't certain things assumed?" asked the associate.

"No, I usually just use my ESP to tune into your brainwaves, and mentally decipher what you want that you don't ask for in writing. No, certain things are not assumed. In fact, nothing is."

The Director pushed the Powerbook away and leaned back in his chair. He wiped a hand down his face.

"I thought you'd be pleased," said the Consultant. "I did exactly what you asked for in writing, no more, and no less. All I can do is what you tell me. In fact, it saves you money because I don't spend billable hours on assumptions."

"Would you excuse us, please?"

The Consultant looked surprised, then with a shrug, he rose and shuffled out of the room.

"How much did we spend on this?" asked the Director.

"Too much," said the associate.

"Is there any budget left?"

"Some, of course. The question is how should it be spent? On this guy?"

The Director shoved the Powerbook over to the associate and grinned. "How about on your overtime?"

Moral of the story: Clearly the Consultant should have done better work, but since he followed the letter of the contract, there's not much the Director can do. The Director should have included better language in the service agreement, and obviously did not give the Consultant much to work from. When hiring a Consultant, be aware of the risks you're taking, and cover yourself accordingly. And when consulting, use your head. Merely adhering to the letter of the contract is about the worst level of service to provide, and will never produce a happy client or good references for future work.

Browse Mode
Jan 10 Solving Performance Emergencies with FileMaker Server
Aug 06 Top Ten Sessions Cut from the 2006 FileMaker Developer Conference
Jul 06 Who's Driving This Thing, Anyway? Or, How Marketing and Engineering Buried the Hatchet (Warning: Contains a Curse Word)
Nov 05 Shingle Grandiloquence
Oct 05 In Celebration of Geek Magnetism
Aug 05 A Rogues' Gallery of Devcon Attendees
Mar 05 Lies, Damned Lies, and Project Specifications
Feb 05 Pick the Right Tool for the Job
Oct 04 Home Media Server Requirements
Jul 04 Leveraging Your FileMaker Lingo
Apr 04 Technical Support Redux
Mar 04 Enforce Seats in FileMaker 7/8/9 Commercial Solutions
Feb 04 Reinventing the Wheel
Oct 03 WAP: The Technology That Wasn't
Aug 03 Brian Dunning's California Governor Election Platform
Jul 03 Sex and the Single Software Developer
May 03 XSLT: Creeping Out of the Closet?
Feb 03 A Consultant's Guide to Traveling
Nov 02 Adventures of Bat Magnum, FileMaker Consultant
Sep 02 FileMaker at Area 51
Aug 02 FileMaker Terminology
Feb 02 Computer Shunts
Dec 01 Aquabase Alpha & the Consultant's Challenge
Aug 01 It IS the Size That Counts
Jun 01 On the Trail of Sasquatch
May 01 Spring Cleaning
Feb 01 FileMaker Mobile Survivor Challenge
Jan 01 Letter from Nürburg
Dec 00 Performance Anxiety
Nov 00 Objection, Your Honor
Oct 00 Leveraging Convergence: Jargon for the 21st Century
Sep 00 Top Ten Things to Do at Devcon
Aug 00 Aesop's FileMaker Fables
Jul 00 Ten Commandments of FileMaker Pro
Jun 00 Explats Cross Examined
May 00 iMac, Therefore iServe
Mar 00 Valley of the Dollars
Jan 00 Are You Up for a Review?
Nov 99 Tales from the Script
Sep 99 Tech Support Revisited
Jul 99 Moderns vs. Classicals
Mar 99 Nashoba, We Hardly Knew Ye