Information Systems
College of Business Administration
University of Missouri - St. Louis
The Mouse and the Crow

A mouse on his travels became very thirty, and could find no water. Around the next bend, he spied a bunch of grapes high on a vine, on which perched a crow. "I am very thirsty," meekly said the mouse to the crow. "will you knock some grapes down to me?" "Those grapes!" scoffed the crow. "Those grapes were passed over last harvest. Now, imagine grapes which have no skins and have no seeds!" The mouse considered for a moment. "Grapes with neither seeds nor skins would be easier to eat, and so would quench my thirst faster. Where can I find them?" "They are very close by," answered the crow. "They haven't quite ripened, and the vines are so high that even I cannot reach them unless I build a ladder - but that will be a minute's work." With that, the crow led the mouse to a nearby vineyard and, pointing with his beak to a misty shape high on a vine, began to extol the virtues of the superior grapes. "But hadn't you get on with building the ladder?" suggested the mouse timidly. "I am growing thirstier." "Surely," replied the crow, "but you don't expect me to build a ladder without a hammer and nails?" Fetch some, and I will make quick work of the ladder." So the mouse went off in search of these things and, passing the grapes he had first seen, felt a spasm of thirst. "But," he told himself, "soon my thirst will be quenched with better grapes." When hammer and nails had been fetched, and straight enough samplings found, and paint procured (and brushes, especially small brushes to paint the tiny designs which the crow explained would enhance the value of the ladder should the mouse wish to sell it afterwards); and all manner of anti-skid wrappings for the rungs, and braided cord to secure the extension portion of the ladder which was (alas too late) found necessary nearly to reach the wonderful grapes; and after other crows had perched nearby and commented on how dazzling the ladder seemed, and how useful it would be for all kinds of different tasks; then the crow extended the ladder up to the grapes (his fellows holding it together with their beaks in the squeaky parts). "Still not ripe" cried the crow, but addressing his fellows they agreed one and all on the beauty, utility and elegance of the ladder. The mouse didn't hear, for he had died of thirst.

Moral: Don't mistake the ladder for the grapes! Beware of scope creep! It is human nature to get carried away and get too concerned about the packaging and forget about the shell in the process (especially in prototyping situations). If you let yourself get too concerned with the attractiveness and fanciness of the system, it may look good, but it might not work. Make sure your system does what it is supposed to do before you worry about its fanciness. Increasing scope and fanciness adds complexities, when your aim should be to minimize risk associated with the proper functioning of the system. Plan, and then do.

These stories are adapted examples written in my class, IS 6840 (formerly MSIS 488).
© Vicki L. Sauter. All rights Reserved.

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