Article development led by
Automation helps collaboration.
BY THOMAS A. LIMONCELLI
ENGINEERS ARE OFTEN asked to generate demo data for
various reasons. It may seem like a one-time task that
can be done manually and forgotten. Automating the
process, however, has many benefits, and supports the
inevitable need for iteration, collaboration, and future
updates. When data is treated as code, you can leverage
techniques from modern software engineering practices.
Many years ago I was at a company
that needed to produce a demo version of its software. The demo would
essentially be the company’s software preloaded with fictional data.
Salespeople would follow a script that
would walk the customer through the
features of the product. The script involved finding various problems and
resolving them with the ease that only
this product could provide.
Marketing would create the script,
and engineering would create a dataset that would support the story.
Using live customer data in the
demo was not an option because that
would be a privacy violation. Even so,
no one customer dataset could support the entire demo script.
This project had many red flags.
Engineers were expected to work on
it “in their spare time.” That misunderstands and devalues engineering
work. When nontechnical managers
don’t understand something, they often assume it is easy to do and, thus,
obviously should not take very long.
More worrisome was the fact this
“spare time” theory was supported
by the incorrect assumption that the