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The Lanham Factor The (ir)rational thoughts of a (not-so)mad man

Many years ago I purchased my first house.  One of the first morning's in the house (a Saturday I believe) my  (ex) wife fetched breakfast at Burger King while I continued installing child safety devices.  She returned with baked, unhealthy yet totally tasty and satisfying treats from the King.  Among the choices was a box (or two) of Cini-Mini's. 

I stared at the box quickly becoming fascinated with the design.  I have always been a curious type.  Also, I am a process geek.  I am interested in learning about how things are designed and built.  Although I was just finishing college, I was already feeling the frustrations of poor / no process.  While staring at the box I started pondering the design. 

I can't seem to find an image of the box so my textual description will have to do.  Things I noticed about the box:

1) Graphics - The graphics on the box (such as the Burger King trademark logo and the name of the product) are printed at an angle with respect to the sides of the box.
2) Size - The container is designed to hold precisely 4 miniature cinnamon rolls.  The cinnamon rolls are an unusual size for cinnamon rolls.  The icing container holds enough icing for the four cinnamon rolls.  (It's actually a little more than I like.)
3) Layout - The container is designed to provide a space to house a single container of icing.  As such, the icing containers are not part of the box and, instead, are inserted into the overall container at purchase time.

While standing there observing these aspects of the container a thought occurred to me that has stayed with me over the years.

"More design time went into this box of Cini-Minis than into most software systems."

Does that make anyone else sad?  If you think about it for a minute, you can see the Vision document forming in your mind…

1) Sales & Marketing - If we put the graphics at right angles to the container then we can get as many graphics on a single container.  Furthermore, angular graphics are more catchy than perpendicular graphics.  At what angle shall the graphics be printed?
2) The Food Itself -  How many rolls shall we put?  This one is great because it drives EVERYTHING.  They must have conducted some research into approximately how much food a test group consumes.  How much icing is consumed with the number of rolls we've chosen?  Do we need to redesign the container for the amount of icing?
3) Preparation - Is the size of the roll conducive to our existing kitchen equipment?  How long does it take to prepare this item? 
4) Shipping - Let's put the icing in the container at purchase time.  This way we can flatten the containers completely for shipping.  This also allows us to ship the containers in a non-refrigerated vehicle.
5) ROI - How much will we charge?  Is this amount profitable given the manufacturing of the containers, the food, the size, the marketing, etc.?

Many of these items are business and system supplemental requirements but you can easily play a similar scenario to form use cases.   So what's my point?

Cini-Mini Syndrome (noun) - A situation wherein less effort is expended sufficiently planning and designing a business software system than a snack. 

Think about the business systems you have in your organization.  Did anyone consider integration?  Reuse?  Modularity?  Service-Orientation?  Or, instead, did someone throw together a system as quickly as possible and now they spend their days maintaining it by quickly adding new functionality or updating records in the database directly?

The next time you are building a software system, use a simple litmus test.  "Do I have enough information to implement Cini-Minis?"  Have you before or do you now experience The Cini-Mini Syndrome?   What advice do you have for combating these situations?

Posted on Saturday, August 2, 2008 11:40 AM SILC - Solution Implementation Life Cycle | Back to top

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