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“relatively easy” August 6, 2008

Posted by That Guy in Definition.
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relatively easy
(REL-uh-tiv-lee EE-zee)

“Relatively easy” is a very popular term in the corporate world. When people use it, they usually think something will be simple to accomplish, mostly because they don’t have any idea how to actually implement the idea. You hear it a lot on conference calls, when everything went perfectly in the testing environment but error after error has popped up during wider implementation.

Most things that are “relatively easy” are in fact that, if proper documentation is provided. Which it rarely ever is. Most of the time, developers don’t write the documentation until well after implementation, once everyone’s figured out how to do it the best way, as opposed to the “right” way. Remember in math class how your teachers always told you to show your work? Well, developers — who were usually pretty good at math back in high school — never show their work. Then they get stuck in the debug process and some on-the-ground employee is forced to take time out of an already-overstuffed schedule to write documentation.

“Relatively easy” also suffers from the curse of the world “relatively”. Random House defines “relatively” as in relation to something else. In other words, something is only “relatively easy” compared to another task. Compared to brain surgery, clipping a fingernail is relatively easy. Compared to writing an entire inventory management computer program with relational databases, inputting stock numbers is relatively easy. But when you hear someone say “relatively easy”, odds are good they’re not talking about your upcoming task being relatively easy in comparison to your regular work.

If anyone above you in the power structure uses the phrase “relatively easy” to describe something you have to do, count on it being far more difficult than you could possibly imagine.

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