Changes in complex software systems seem like they take forever, don’t they? Even to engineers it often feels like changes take longer than they should, and we understand the reasons for the underlying complexity in the system!
For stakeholders it can be even more obtuse and frustrating. This can be exacerbated by the incidental complexity introduced over time in systems that haven’t been properly maintained. It can feel like we are bailing water out of a ship with a thousand leaks.
So it can be incredibly frustrating and deflating when one day you get a message from a stakeholder saying, “Why in the world will this take so long?” But we have to remember that as software engineers we have a window into a world that our stakeholders often don’t have visibility into. They put a lot of trust in us to deliver for them, but sometimes a seemingly small change can end up taking a large amount of time. This leads to a frustration that results in a curt “explain to me why this takes so long.”
Don’t be offended by this question; see it as an opportunity to empathize with your stakeholders and to give them a clearer picture of the complexity of the system. And at the same time, you have the opportunity to suggest ways in which to improve the situation. There is no better time than when someone is frustrated by something to tell them you have an idea for how to improve it!