Sunday, March 01, 2009

Lessons From A Scorched Satellite Dish

So I’ve got this neighbor…nice enough guy, but definitely not the sharpest tool in the shed. A little lacking in the common sense department. Several months ago, he signed up for Dish TV. Decided to install the dish on the room himself (and this is where the lack of sharpness comes into play). The genius figures he won’t have to put any holes in his roof for the mounting apparatus if he just wedges the dish into the opening at the top of the chimney…yeah, honest, that’s what he did...I’m just not creative enough to make this stuff up. Then he really straps on the old thinking cap and runs the line from the dish to the TV down through one of the air vents for the attic. At the time, my neighbor was really quite proud of his smarts for installing the dish without putting any holes into his roof.

Now let’s fast-forward a few months to just a few weeks ago. Southern California got hit with a cold snap (well, cold for this part of the world, anyway). Guess what my neighbor does? Yup, he lights a fire in the fireplace. House fills up with smoke. Parts of the dish scorch and melt, rendering the dish a disc of scrap metal. Small fire (very small – no real significant damage) starts up in the attic (turns out the cable used to wire up TVs to satellite dishes does a fairly decent job of transferring heat over short distances; who knew?). It’s like a big BBQ gone wild. After the smoke settles and the fire department leaves, my neighbor starts venting about his frustration with Dish TV! He thinks they either should have produced a dish that would hold up to these types of conditions or lat least warned him not to install the dish in the chimney. So he complains to Dish Network. In a true example of going the extra mile in the name of customer service, Dish Network replaces the satellite dish free of charge. Now, here’s the good part: want to guess where my neighbor mounted the new satellite dish? Yup, it’s wedged right back in the top of the chimney. The neighbor says he won’t be lighting any more fires in the fireplace, but I’m not sure his mental electrodes have enough juice running to recall in six months that he really shouldn’t be lighting up another log. I can’t wait for the entertainment to come next winter!!!

On a slightly more serious note, it’s pretty easy to see that my neighbor’s issues came from a failure to learn and follow best practices for installing the satellite dish. His custom installation seemed…and apparently still seems…to be a great idea to him. In the world of packaged enterprise applications, I think many companies may have more in common with my neighbor than they may be willing to admit. For example, how many E-Business customers diverge from best practices and customize the packaged apps in order to preserve a unique business process? The word “bunches” seems to spring to mind here. And, later on, when the customization breaks due to a configuration change from a patch or an upgrade, who do we blame? The company providing the packaged apps, of course! They should build more flexible apps. See the parallel?

Folks, customizing packaged apps is a bad idea. The most expensive approach to enterprise apps is customizing packaged applications…it’s a maintenance nightmare and greatly reduces whatever value you’re receiving from your maintenance agreement. And yet we keep doing it. Isn’t the definition of insanity the repetition of the same action, hoping for a different result?

There are better ways to preserve your unique business processes than by customizing your packaged apps. More on that in my next post. Google up “loose coupling” if you want a preview.

I have to run now…I think I smell a satellite dish cooking and I sure don’t want to miss out on that! In the meantime, comments are always welcome.

NOTE: I define "customizing" as any change to the out-of-the-box code of a packaged app; very different from extensions, tailoring, or personalizing.


Anonymous said...

what a great story/metaphor. I think you should have included a photo of said installation, classic!

- Meg

Misha Vaughan said...

Awesome blog Floyd. A well needed dose of humor.

- Misha Vaughan @ Oracle

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chankansin said...

This thing Dish TV has become boon (for most people) as well bane for some...

chankansin said...

Hilarious Dish TV episode...waiting for another one

steve said...

I just go through your blog,what a lovely story.