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Resume Driven Design

Sam Buchanan, a long time colleague, commenting on a consultants design for a small web application:

“I'm telling you: this app reeks of resume-driven design”

In ‘Your Application is a Rotting old Shack’ I whined mused about applications that get face lifts while core problems get ignored. Let’s assume for a moment that business units finally figure out that their apps have a crumbling foundation and need structural overhauls. Assuming that internal resources don’t exist, how do we know that the consultants and contractors that we hire to design and build our systems aren’t more interested in building their resumes than our applications?

I’d like to think that I would be able to tell if a consultant tried to recommend an architecture or design that exists more to pad their resume than solve my problems. It’s probably not that straight forward though. Consultants have motivations that may intersect with your needs, or they may have motivations that significantly deviate from what you need, and if their motivations are resume driven, there is a chance that you’ll end up with a design that helps someone's resume more that it helps you.

Short term employees may share some of the same motivations. If they are using you to fill out their resume, you’d better have needs that line up with the holes in their resume. I’m pretty sure that ‘slogged through a decade old poorly written application, identified unused code and database objects’ or ‘documented and cleaned up an ad hoc, poorly organized, data model’ isn’t the first thing people want on their resume.

They probably want something shiny.


  1. I have seen this many times. eg. While working for the state of AZ I ran across a web app that had been implemented in the then named Atlas ( ajax) which was not even in RTM yet. What garbage! Turned out he went to a web contract next doing what? AJAX! Needless to say, the first job of a PM is to watch and strictly guide the contractors as needed. Good points though well known if you code long enough.


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