The Bird House
An elderly man who earned the trust and respect of all the forest's creatures, called upon those that he felt could best create a grand birdhouse. First he called upon the wise owl who he then granted the responsibility of managing the birdhouse's construction and design. Taking pride in his newfound responsibility, the owl went forth and called upon the forest's beaver to do the general design of the birdhouse. The owl described it as a being exorbitantly large, so as to fit his other birds of prey and be able to lure and trap smaller birds for lunch. With a salute the beaver formulated the design which consisted of the bird house being situated on the river with the dual purpose of being a dam.
The plans were then sent along to a team of squirrels, under much duress by the managing owl, who were to do the actual construction of the birdhouse. Eventually the elderly man was met by a now forlorn and distressed owl that hesitantly ushered his audience to the grand birdhouse which was now running three months late. Confused as he was being directed to the river, the elderly man bore witness to the "grand birdhouse."
It was a dilapidated haunt outstretched over the river bed with several birds desperately streaming from its exit doors. One such bird approached the elderly man exclaiming simply "why!?" The little sparrow spoke of how the birdhouse smelled rank of fish before being partially flooded. It spoke of how it had nothing but acorns in its kitchens. But most of all, it spoke of half its family being eaten by the birdhouse director. The elderly man scratched his head and simply bemoaned the fact that the owl simply didn't consult birds such as the sparrow he spoke with, those that would actually use the "grand birdhouse."
This tale exemplifies the incredible challenge that takes place in the design of just about any system with regard to translating specifications to the various stakeholders involved. Managers, developers, users, and others who would be involved with a systems development all have very different ideas of how it's shaped based off the aspect of those various groups standing where they sit. Managers may see it more from a budgetary perspective, whereas developers are going to see the design at a functional level.
There's also the simple aspect of users not really knowing what they want. Not only does this lesson demand good communication between parties but also putting in place proper mechanisms by which the system can be properly articulated. Such mechanisms may include prototypes of the system by which the user can feel out the system and give feedback. Feedback such as from that of the fable's sparrow would have been invaluable early in the product's development.
These stories are adapted examples written in my class, IS 6840 (formerly MSIS 488).
© Vicki L. Sauter. All rights Reserved.