There is a show on TV at the moment called Tattoo Fixers. It is about people who get really bad tattoos and then decide that they need to cover them up. It’s a great show – the fixers are masters of their craft and very talented, and the individuals are apparently looking to sort out their mistakes.
So what has this got to do with bad software?
So why do companies find it so hard to get rid of bad software? It’s because it takes a lot of courage to admit that you made a mistake, and to fix it is:
- Going to be painful;
- Going to cost you time and money to make the change; and
- You still don't know what you are going to get until it's done.
So what happens instead? Companies just tend to stick with what they have and make the best of it through workarounds, using more resources, by assuming the maintenance costs that they are charged for the pleasure of using bad software, doing some of the process manually, paying someone else to do some of the process manually, and then getting someone to double check that what you wanted to be done right in the first place has actually been done.
“But we are working on a new version,” software companies say, “it won’t actually be much better, but it’s on a new platform. It took loads of people to develop it, and you can't just switch over to it, so we will have to charge you.”
So, in other words, you mean I have to get another stupid tattoo on my other arm when I don't actually want the first one?
Back to the tattoo fixers – they are a relatively new phenomenon. They may have worked at the big tattoo parlour that gave bad tattoos to drunk people, but now they have gone out on their own, looking at the problem from a different angle. Finally, they are in a position to deliver something that people actually want, something that people actually like, and something that actually does what it was intended to do.
There are many software companies that started up by following the same principals – smart, talented people who worked on poorly conceived products and decided that there had to be a better way.
At the end of the day, not everyone will get their bad tattoos (and software problems) fixed. They will stick with them forever; just put up with them and hide them away. They may even end up putting a sticking plaster over it. But some will have the courage to do the right thing. They will fix their mistakes and get on with a better life.
I don’t have any tattoos. I didn’t follow all my mates down that same road. I don’t have a problem with tattoos, but some of theirs were pretty bad. Some have had them fixed and some haven’t, but they have all learned that when something gets done badly, you’re better off not doing it all. But if you do have to sort out an ugly mistake, look to a professional to help you, and don’t be afraid to fix the problem, even if it’s going to hurt.