Look me in the eye!

(A short rant about eye-contact-based specifications.)

image In short, there is no such things as an eye-contact-based specification. And for a reason.

While kicking-off of a project, we had a discussion with the customer about the change management approach, and specification detail.I was insisting on documenting all change requests in detail and update the specifications accordingly, but the customer went:

We don’t need to specify every single detail, and every single tiny change. Specifications should be high-level, so that they can stay unaffected with detailed changes, and we can agree on details on the go.

But what if we agree on a detail on the go, and later you say you wanted it the other way around? – I asked.

We are grown ups. – said the customer – That won’t happen. If it happens, you come to me, you look me in the eye, I look you in the eye, and I tell you what I need, and I assure you that request won’t change ever again. And that’s as good as written specification. Specifications should stay high-level, small details shouldn’t go there. If we spend time documenting every single detail, we would burn the whole project budget just on paperwork, changes and approvals. We just need to look each other in the eye and trust each other’s word.

Now my eyes hurt.

My brain does even more so. If customer is king, I ended up a jester.

Take my advice: Don’t give in on methodology.


Vjeko has been writing code for living since 1995, and he has shared his knowledge and experience in presentations, articles, blogs, and elsewhere since 2002. Hopelessly curious, passionate about technology, avid language learner no matter human or computer.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. PM Hut

    It looks like this customer will be nothing but trouble… Ignoring procedures and detailed requirements because “we’re grown ups” is not a god sign.

    I hope I’m wrong.

  2. Vjeko

    Yes, they were mostly trouble. We managed to introduce the procedures eventually, but a few “look me in the eye” requirements went a long way. This customer understood after a while that their own time investment into getting things right was the worst part of it.

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