Custom Application Development

Jun 27 2008   11:30AM GMT

Developer, Business Consultant or Detective?

SJC SJC Profile: SJC

I wrote a couple of days ago about how I thought that we independent developers had to be partially detective, and indeed not just developers, but pretty much in any IT position that we may hold.  My last post really was somewhat of an example where the developer was acting more like a business consultant than developer.  He had identified a process issue, and the prospect wasn’t open to the “business consultant” service he was getting from the developer.  (From the owners view, there was nothing wrong with his business (process), it was a computer application problem!).

Another example of a developer becoming business consultant came to my attention yesterday.  It seems that the developer was asked to come out and evaluate the clients application to ensure that it was doing what it was supposed to, and also to ensure that there were no “workarounds” that could be used by dishonest employees to “skim” inventory.  It seems that there had been major issues with generic inventory shortages, and the company management suspected possible theft.

The developer went on-site and performed an exhaustive evaluation of the application and the processes in place and had found nothing out of the ordinary or unexpected.  The developer was wearing his “detective” hat at that point. 

Now, while waiting for management to become available to report his findings, the developer (detective) became aware of something — the phone had rung, and the counter person took an order, pulled a few items from inventory.  He then excused himself to the developer saying he had to bring these items out to the shop.  The developer noticed that he had done nothing with the inventory system, and upon the employees return began to question him about what he had just witnessed.

The company stocked a series of tools which were of standard sizes, but that could then be slightly modified by a secondary process to in effect provide a “custom” item.  Upon further conversation with the employee it was established that it was a common practice to take items out to the shop to be “customized”, and they were then sold as a “special order” item.  “Special Order” items were not inventoried. 

At this point the “detective” became the “business consultant”.  Records of the “special order” sales indicated that the suspected “losses” of inventory were in fact due to the movement (without any record keeping) of the items to be turned into the non-inventory special order items.  Records showed that the missing inventory was completely accounted for after reviewing the special order sales – there was no theft issue.  Rather it was a business process issue.

That this situation was noticed was truly due to the skill of the developer as detective and business consultant.  It should also be noted that Lady Luck played her part in that since management wasn’t available for the developers “final report” he witnessed what he did that ended up identifying the issue at hand.  It all worked out!

Just another day as an independent application developer!

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