Play.com coders have to 'cut corners' to satisfy new Japanese bosses, says CIO

By Peter Gothard
29 Jun 2012 View Comments
Image of the Play.com website

Play.com has admitted that it has to cut corners in terms of the quality of its software coding in order to meet project targets.

To complete its current 150 IT projects in time for launch in July, including new marketplace provisions and a planned mobile app, Play.com's CIO has admitted to Computing that the coding team is having to "cut corners", including elements of "spaghetti code" (poor coding) to make sure it meets tight deadlines imposed by its new Japanese owner, Rakuten Group.

"The Rakuten model has to come very quickly in place, because it has to give the business a new weapon," Play.com CIO Francesco de Marchis told Computing, "and right now that means for me developing so much stuff in a very short time, and sometimes you have to cut corners. You don't like it, but sometimes you have to cut corners."

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De Marchis described the balance between Rakuten's expectations and the reality of what his UK-, Romania- and India-based coding teams could deliver as "a challenge".

"At the end of the day, [Rakuten] don't care how I deliver the project, but for us, we care, so we know that if we have done 'spaghetti code', we know that's going to haunt us later," said de Marchis.

In what is an especially topical revelation in the light of the recent RBS Group IT debacle, the cause of which has been linked to rushed or otherwise substandard coding, De Marchis suggested that knowing when to employ "corner cutting" coding was part of the requirements of his role as CIO.

"We try to avoid it, but at the same time you have to understand when you have to do it because you have no other choice," said de Marchis.

"So that's the challenge that we have with 150 projects to be delivered. It's monster work, and everybody's already doing overtime and working on the weekends – they know how important it is for the business."

De Marchis explained to Computing that it can sometimes be hard for coding teams to understand why delivering a project "a week later" than projected should make any difference to the business. The CIO explained that, at Play.com, finishing on time is a statement of intent for future projects.

"To show that we're going to deliver on time, and when promised – that proves to the business that the next step will be achieved in the same way," said de Marchis.

"So a big challenge from so many projects means that sometimes you need to get a good balance, and cut the corners off.

"If you're a coder, you always try to be a purist, but sometimes you just can't, and you have to use older procedures while writing brand new service-orientated components," de Marchis concluded.

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