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I am using a 3rd party software tool at work that has some bugs that are not yet fixed. There is no work around for some of them. My boss insists that since the website of the tools says that it got the "Software Tool of the Year" award, it can't have those bugs.

I am the only user of this tool and have used it for 3 years. However, certain bugs in the program prevent me from using it normally and cause disruptions that require me to find workarounds all the time. My boss who does not use the tool insists that I am not using it properly since it is "Software Tool of the Year" according to its website.

What do I do to make the boss understand it is the tool that is the problem, it is the tool that is broken, not me the user?

The problem can be explained like this. The project becomes corrupt. It is intermittent. Creating the project again takes a very long time. But, this is not all; there are many other issues. The problem is that the workarounds are VERY tedious. If I have to keep doing this, I will resign. It is better to work somewhere else than die of stroke or anxiety.

Contacting customer support has not resolved most of the problems. They just say upgrade to the latest version, but the problem does not go away. What are they supposed to do when the problems I see are intermittent, i.e., no clear steps to reproduce the problem on their end?

The program is called Microsemi Libero SoC. I could just use the script based approach, but the script based approach does not offer all the steps that are created through the GUI. This will be patched up, but some years down the line.

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    Have you tried filing bug reports? How did they respond?
    – bytepusher
    Dec 12, 2022 at 2:10
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    Filing bug report did not get anywhere since the errors of interest are "intermittent". There is no specific steps that can reproduce them. They happen from time to time and corrupt the project files. Creating them from scratch is the only way, but it takes a LOT of time to reproduce the project reliably such that it is always identical.
    – gyuunyuu
    Dec 12, 2022 at 2:12
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    What's the problem? Just do the work arounds? Dec 12, 2022 at 3:02
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    What is the name of the tool? If you give us the name of the tool, we can maybe find you the proof for whether the award is bullshit or not, or whether the bugs exist or not. In any case, your boss sounds like an idiot. Dec 12, 2022 at 4:24
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    "Creating them from scratch is the only way" don't you have backups?
    – nvoigt
    Dec 12, 2022 at 6:23

5 Answers 5

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I am the only user of this tool and have used it for 3 years.

The tool may very well be full of bugs and broken. But the fact that you have been able to use this tool for three years despite whatever issues it has, demonstrates to your boss that the tool is useful since you are still able to complete your work.

It is easy to complain about a tool having bugs or being difficult to use, but if you want to make progress to use a different tool you need to offer a viable alternative and clearly demonstrate to your boss why the alternative is better for the company.

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    For instance, if the tool is so esoteric that it could result in accidentally losing the company $900mil, there might be a good case for ditching it: npr.org/2021/07/23/1019909860/banque-worms Dec 12, 2022 at 21:03
  • I remember when that Citibank incident happened. It was an honest mistake made by a skilled well-meaning human using the absolutely horrific UX from an Oracle product. Tragically, "enterprise applications" with profound usability issues are commonplace. It is so widespread that an entire industry has grown to support the many companies that will NEVER ditch these tools (robotic process automation).
    – teego1967
    Dec 18, 2022 at 12:17
  • Here's the transcript of the podcast: npr.org/transcripts/1019909860
    – Nelson
    Dec 19, 2022 at 1:40
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    The tool had no alternative since the silicon we are using (Microsemi FPGAs) are only compatible with this software tool. Anyway, since it is not all simple to explain the problems that these tools pose and my boss just prefers to to stay away, I resigned from that job. Let the boss explain that to management on his own.
    – gyuunyuu
    Feb 5, 2023 at 22:49
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Have a small video camera recording everything you do when using that program. The video must clearly show the problem, and it must clearly show how difficult it is to recover after the problem. After the problem happens, show the video to your boss.

You might be able to use a screen capturing software, in order to not use a physical camera. Read again your IT rules and regulations.

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    I used that once in my own software when a bug was impossible to reproduce. You just used it for long enough, and the bug happened. It turned out that you had to do four things in a row that should have been totally unrelated to provoke the problem. Impossible for automatic tests or manual tests following a script.
    – gnasher729
    Dec 12, 2022 at 11:07
  • @gnasher729 I'm glad you found it lol
    – DKNguyen
    Dec 12, 2022 at 15:53
  • @gnasher729 Monkey testing is designed to cover that but it's rarely feasible indeed.
    – Lodinn
    Dec 13, 2022 at 3:06
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    If you are on Windows, press WinKey+R (Run), type psr (Problem Steps Recorder) and hit Enter, and press the record button. This will capture a screenshot every time you click/input anything, track it all, and when you stop recording it generates a neat little report of what you did, including screenshots and markings on those screenshots. (It is possible that this tool has been disabled via company policy)
    – Flater
    Dec 13, 2022 at 9:12
  • @Flater: that is neat!! I did not know that it exists...
    – virolino
    Dec 13, 2022 at 14:02
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One approach that has worked well for me in similar situations (for example, where I think some software can't perform some function and someone else thinks it can) is to ask the other person to show you how it is done. You can do this in a way that is not challenging, passive-aggressive, or condescending.

In your case, I would suggest you contact tech support for the tool in question, and ask them to walk you through how to do the thing your boss says could be done but you believe impossible because of bugs. For example, let's say it is a customer contact management app and you don't think it is possible to search for all customers not in Columbus, Ohio. You don't think the app has that feature, or that it's buggy.

You: I want to search for all customers not in Columbus, Ohio. How do I do that?

Support: Go to the search screen, enter "Columbus" and click the "Not In" button.

You try this and either it will work (maybe you didn't know about the "Not In" button), or it won't. If it works, great! You've learned something new about the software and can do your job more easily. If it doesn't work, you can describe what's going on and the tech support person can file a bug report and maybe help with a work-around. Either way, you've established (hopefully to both you and your boss's satisfaction) what's happening and neither of you have to lose face.

By asking an expert (or the person with whom you're arguing) in a friendly way to show you how to do the thing, you've removed it from being an argument. One or both of you will learn something and you can move on.

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    Before answering, you should read the comments. Op clearly stated: "Filing bug report did not get anywhere since the errors of interest are "intermittent"." Your way can attract trouble, by making both the boss and the supplier angry, when the bug cannot be reproduced.
    – virolino
    Dec 13, 2022 at 14:06
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    @virolino Any reasonable support should help customers track down such intermittent errors. Usually log files could be sent in and analyzed along with corrupted project files. It seems odd to me that asking for help from technical support on a product with an intermittent issue should make anyone angry.
    – Mark Meuer
    Dec 13, 2022 at 19:03
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    so you did not have a chance to work with reasonable companies and with unreasonable people yet? You are so lucky! Your life is so blissful...
    – virolino
    Dec 14, 2022 at 7:01
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    @virolino I hear what you are (sarcastically) saying. Of course, it is possible that one or both of the people involved are so unreasonable that logical argument or demonstration of any kind is ineffective. ("How dare you call tech support for help with a difficult-to-reproduce error!") If that's really the case then none of the suggestions given here will help, and the OP needs to decide to either live with the situation or look for a new job.
    – Mark Meuer
    Dec 16, 2022 at 16:49
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Start by documenting the use of this third party tool as a step-list, so that you're able to demonstrate to your manager that you follow the exact same process every time you use this tool.

Document whatever arguments/inputs you use and what you do at each stage (if appropriate) what the expected outputs are.

This serves three purposes:

  1. Shows your manager that you're not aimlessly picking around at the tool to make it do it's processing
  2. Documents the process so that it helps you identify the bug that's surely there
  3. Reinforces the process for you and others using the tool

Remember there's always scope for human error, so take into consideration that the problem might be your usage of the tool and not the tool's fault. Everyone falls into the "over-familiarity trap" every so often.

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  • A few times I thought that I found the cause or fixed it. But, it is intermittent. It is never clear why all project files become corrupt every few weeks.
    – gyuunyuu
    Dec 18, 2022 at 1:21
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Windows comes with built-in file history that you can enable for your project. It will make a copy of your files every hour by default. Alternatively, you could use version control software like Git or Subversion to get better control of when the changes to the files are backed-up (committed).

This alleviates your immediate problem of having to recreate the project from scratch; now you only need to recreate the last hour or so.

Having both, the last good version and the corrupt one can also help you convince your boss that the bug is real and may even help you or the customer support to create a reproducible case.

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  • That is a work around at best and the tool may or may not allow that to work depending on how it works. Even if it does it can still result in lost data from when the last backup occurred and the problem happened.
    – Joe W
    Dec 18, 2022 at 14:12
  • Well, OP says the boss is unresponsive, they've already considered resigning and the top answer suggests to "just suck it." The only remaining option is to prove the issue and then hope the boss or customer support is receptive. Similar to other answers (i.e. recording, documenting), my answer adds an idea on how to gather additional info regarding the issue. And yes, it also provides a non-perfect workaround; recreating only an hour of work instead of weeks (as per OP). OP also talks about "project files" in the comments so I'm confident a tool made for file versioning should work OK.
    – Luc
    Dec 18, 2022 at 17:30
  • Sure but this can lead to the loss of data and make it harder to track what is lost. Not to mention the program might not be compatible with those methods. If it uses a database you can’t back it up like that.
    – Joe W
    Dec 18, 2022 at 18:59
  • "Windows comes with built-in file versioning" - really? Will you please provide some details about how to use it?
    – virolino
    Dec 19, 2022 at 5:42
  • @virolino, it's actually called "windows file history" (I mislabeled it in the answer). You also get this out-of-the-box if using OneDrive to store your files in the cloud.
    – Luc
    Dec 19, 2022 at 6:12

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