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Subversive stakeholders
Thursday, January 06, 2005

I get a lot of email - Some is business related, some personal, an immense amount of spam, and once in a while a few that I can quite categorize.

On Monday, I received an interesting message from a Computer Science professor in Germany. I couldn't dismiss it as spam, as the message looks like a legit message. However, I'm not 100% sure.

The title of the email is as follows: "Subversive stakeholders in software projects - request for assistance."

Subversive is quite a heavy adjective. One definition of the word is: a radical supporter of political or social revolution.

I thought it interesting to find the word related to a software project. Being a professor, of course, he has his own definition when pertaining to a software project:
    Definition: "Subversive Stakeholder"
    I use the term "stakeholders" for persons who have any interest whatsoever in the software project. (E.g. developers, project leads, architects, patrons, customers, consultants and various user groups).

    A "subversive stakeholder" is a person who wants the project to fail - i.e. a stakeholder who wants to sabotage, to disturb or destroy the project.
He was requesting for me to fill up a 10 question survey on "subversive stakeholders." A sample question is as follows: (1) Have you ever encountered subversive stakeholders in software projects?

I, of course, started wondering if a "subversive stakeholder" exists and what led a CS professor to ask such question.

I've been giving it some serious thought, and this is what I've come up with:
  1. He is from Germany, which is a European country. I friend of mine went to Germany on a work related matter (He's a Chemical Engineer), and he mentioned to me that in Europe (at least it was his experience) no one gets fired - When you work for a company, you work there for life.

  2. I'm in North America - We have no job security - Anywhere. I like doing contract work (for the time being), however, I have worked full time before the bubble burst, and when push came to shove: no money, no honey. That meant, the company closed unexpectedly - I'm sure senior level managers knew, however, the rest of us didn't.
There is a fundamental difference in both cultures - I, think, that in North America there are no "subversive stakeholders." There are incompetent stakeholders, but, I doubt such person is doing this "subverting" on purpose.

Being subversive, it would be playing with one's ability to sustain a normal life. I.e. getting paid for one's services. Being a subversive, as per the definition he gave me, is kind of insane. It sure is a way to not ever work again.

Also, most of the people I have worked and currently work with, really like what they do and put the best effort in their capacity to do best quality work they can accomplish. In other words, they are truly professionals. I learn from them every day.

I can't really say anything about European culture nor have any factual based comment on software projects over the other side of the pond, however, I can extrapolate from number 1 above. I'm allowed to extrapolate, after all - Whether I'm right or wrong, is not the point.

This subversion is a cultural phenomenon. If he is asking, these subversives probably exist where he is from and must be important enough to do research. I think his effort is more of an academic exercise, rather than an official survey. I.e. get a whole bunch of well paid statistitians to use all the survey theory available to man kind to come up with good representation of the software engineering community. He said that he is doing the research for a Software Engineering class, so there is some acceptable margin of error allowed.

Anyway, I haven't categorized the message as legitimate or not. However, it gave my brain a bit of mental work out. I also replied to him stating that I couldn't respond to any of the questions, as I have not encountered any subversive activity.

What do you think? Do you think such beast (subversive stakeholder) exist in our culture. I may be naive, but, I truly doubt our culture allows for such ineptitude and psychotic behavior.

BTW, I'm making a big assumption anyone reads my blog :)

1:18 AM | 1 comment(s) |



You are probably right that no member of the development team or company will ever be subversive but I guess sometimes the customer itself or one of its representatives try to be subversive: in the half of the way they may find out that their requested software costs them much more than they expected, or that it doesn't worth anymore, or whatever so instead of asking the development company to cancel the project and pay them, they try to put them into trouble and finally sue them :-D

Maybe I'm very pessimistic but I guess I have seen such a thing once in the near past...
By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:48 AM

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