Wheel Factory

An organization dedicated to reinventing wheels. (See NotInventedHere)

A team of people who spend a lot of time writing peripherally relevant modules to support the real development effort. As often as not, the support modules have some standard or public domain analog that is almost as good (but often better) than what was written in-house.

The support modules become a SupportNightmare?, as the team is distracted from their real work by the maintenance of all of the extra crap they wrote.

-- RusHeywood


Then again, there is another type of WheelFactory: a team of people whose real development effort is that peripheral stuff that others shouldn't be building. For example, any good database server company is a true WheelFactory; they are improving on technology that was invented decades ago.

Real-world wheel factories exist today; they make (wouldn't you know) wheels. They make them stronger, lighter, and rounder. And companies that make things that need wheels either become their own wheel factories, or buy their wheels from one.

Being a WheelFactory is fine in the software world or real world, provided that you are experts in building wheels and can actually sell them. If you can't, you are probably better off letting a professional WheelFactory make your wheels.

I don't think the original intent of this page shares the above definition of WheelFactory. A WheelFactory simply wastes development effort on tasks outside its core competency. Database vendors clearly focus on the task of creating and improving databases. If said database vendor were to spend a considerable amount of time on developing their own C compiler and OS, they would then stand to be accused of being a WheelFactory.

Managers often give in to this pattern as a retention tool. AllStar? programmers who maintain the core competency bread and butter product will often insist on developing their own foo peripheral technology under the threat that he/she may leave if not given the opportunity to "grow". The appropriate response is, unfortunately, to let the AllStar? go, maintain core product focus, or find other avenues for creative growth. --MichaelLeach


I worked at a place in Phoenix (WhoShallRemainNameless?) that had an embedded wheel maintenance depot. The earlier incarnation of this group, their own WheelFactory, had long since morphed into a maintenance group, housing a number of LegacyLongHairs? (or is that LegacyGreyBeards?). The continued proper operation of the product line absolutely depended on this abstraction layer they'd created more than a decade earlier -- to free themselves from the tyranny of SingleVendorSourcing?. Just hold that thought for a moment. -- GarryHamilton


I wonder what happens if a real WheelFactory reinvents the compass or some other rudimentary tool? Do they also get accused of being a WheelFactory? --- AgentScorpion?

That's an interesting question, but I don't think the compass (or something like it) exists in the IT world, so they probably would be accused of being a wheel factory. --TomRM

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