An Expensive Typo

21 March 2010

Following a recent presentation, a debate started around the most expensive typo that people had encountered. My own contribution to the discussion was my experience of a design specification that had the words "a synchronous interface" to describe the messaging mechanism between two systems. The text passed though several reviews without comment and the system was built according to the design. When the customer tested the interface, he raised some observations that seemed peculiar initially, until we realised that he was after "an asynchronous interface" - a significantly more complex design in itself, notwithstanding the time lost in developing the incorrect solution.  In the end, putting matters right cost the project a month's schedule delay.

This sort of miscommunication can be avoided in a couple of ways. If using rigorous design documentation, have this contain two different types of model each complementing the other, such a diagram alongside a textual description. Even better, use collaborative working and have the parties explain the design to the other, ideally face to face, using different types of model.   In this way, a misunderstanding  in one model is uncovered by explaining the same thing in another.

This is all very well, but what about if you have to write some high-level requirement statements for a commercial contract? The answer is - be careful - lawyers don't generally like anything but the simplest diagrams, so the modelling options are restricted. Some suggestions would be the following. Firstly, frame the text in terms of business outcomes rather than prescriptive statements. This allows the implementation team the flexibility to deliver in a manner of its choosing. Secondly, help your lawyers by being clear with your requirements wording – especially avoiding compound sentences – you don't want to become responsible for a two-million-dollar comma.  

Success Stories

"Agilier's experience in managing business processes made them an ideal candidate to manage functional integration thereby reducing a significant risk to the business. This involved them working with the workstream leads and developing a high-level integrated businesses process against which we planned our programme."

Chris Davies
Programme Manager, EADS Defence and Communications Systems


"I was extremely happy with the professional and complete way that Agilier performed their work and would not hesitate to use their services again."

Mike Haynes
Senior Project Manager, Cogent Defence and Security Networks


Our latest writings, or thought-pieces, appear here.

Take a look at our free, time-saving templates in our new section.

Keep in touch with the latest ideas to help your organisation deliver. Click here for more.

RSS Feed