Why Systems Integration is Hard: Ashley, Bob, Cindy, Dave, Emily, Frank, Gina, and Hank
May 2, 2016
Imagine you manage a team of corporate event planners, responsible for overseeing each event and ensuring every single detail is arranged and executed. Your team consists of 8 individuals. The scale of each event is sufficiently large, requiring you to task each individual. If any of them fail, the event will be unsatisfactory (at best) or completely unsafe (at worst).
Ashley speaks English. Ashley refuses to listen to anyone but Gina.
Bob speaks Spanish. If you ask him to do something, you won’t hear anything from him until he’s completely finished. So, you’re not always sure if he heard you to begin with.
Cindy speaks Portuguese. She can understand bits and pieces of Bob’s Spanish, but regularly needs help translating anyway. If asked to do something, she will immediately respond with “yep, no problem at all” and run off to work on it. But, she’ll frequently hit a roadblock and stop working on the task. You won’t find out whether or not her work was completed until a few days later. By that time, you’ve long since forgotten what you asked and have to go back to your notes to figure it out.
Dave can speak English, but he instead chooses to speak a language he made up entirely on his own and refuses to respond to anything else. All you have is a set of hastily written notes he jotted down on a napkin. Most of the ways you know to communicate with him were arrived at by trial and error on past projects, all of which required you to keep your own notes. The COO firmly believes he’s absolutely critical to the business and frequently directs you to assign him important tasks. But he’s only available 25% of the time you need him. The other 75%, he’s drunk at the local bar.
Emily speaks English, but interlaced with words she made up purely because she thinks they’re superior to the standard language. She refuses to speak verbally and will only communicate using written word on paper.
Frank is obsessed with the “old days” and sticks to Old English. He’s perfectly capable of becoming effective with modern English, but he’s stuck in his ways. These days, Frank can’t handle much on his own, but he’s been an employee for a solid 40 years. He knows everything there is to know about local ordinances and codes, so you must frequently consult with him and pass the information off to the others.
Gina does not understand a single language, but she’s able to perfectly enunciate any sentence you tell her, repeating it to someone else. However, she refuses to do so unless you first pat her on the back and gently shove her in the correct direction.
Hank spoke English when you first hired him, but he decides to speak nothing but his hobby language (Klingon) in the middle of the project.