Understanding an OSS shopping list

I recently read this great scenario in a customer’s requirements gathering guide and it can be related to the capturing of OSS requirements too. As a husband, I can also relate more directly to the scenario. 😉

Wife says… I sent my husband grocery shopping for:
Tomato paste
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

He comes back with:
Tomato paste
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

And they’re all wrong!!

They are wrong because:
Tomato paste – It wasn’t the salt free one in the sachets that I like
Shampoo – He got the one for damaged hair – hasn’t he noticed that’s not the one we use
Apples – He bought Fuji apples – but I wanted Granny Smith for cooking – and I have to have it now so I can deliver the pie to the school lunch (I have been slotted in to bring an apple pie) – I can’t wait
Extra Virgin Olive Oil – He bought a small gourmet bottle – I only wanted him to buy it because there is a special on at the moment for 5 litres – it’s a bargain – not like the expensive one he bought that will only last one week because it’s so small.
Milk – He only bought 1 litre – surely he realises we need more than that
Chocolate – He didn’t buy any at all

From the OSS customer’s perspective:
The provider hadn’t delivered – I could argue that it was not:
at the right price
The provider has now caused me delays and head aches
I don’t know how reliable they are and whether I should continue to use them
They are suggesting that it is a change request! i.e. I will have to pay more and or wait longer just to get what I wanted in the first place

From the OSS provider’s perspective:
This customer is difficult
The customer did not clearly define their requirements
This will cost us more to deliver – we need to charge the customer for this
Why can’t the customer see that they brought this upon themselves
Not sure if we have the resources to do this extra work in the required timeframe

The moral of the story is for customer and provider to work collaboratively on defining a set of requirements that are clear and unambiguous for both parties.

However, the bigger challenge for capturing OSS requirements is that the shopping list is far more complex than milk, apples and chocolate. In addition, the shopping list isn’t always being communicated in common terminologies. Husband and wife will equally know what milk is (roughly), but provider and customer may have completely different understandings of what root-cause analysis or big data analytics is!

Similarly, I always say that a customer gets out what they put in. If they join you on the journey of a project, they can constantly guide you on the intent of their requirements. It’s the difference between getting 5L olive oil that was on sale and getting it all wrong.

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