Thought for the day: Penny for the guy?

Why should we get a our fingers burned by persisting with do-it-yourself software, when there are specialists who can offer a...


Why should we get a our fingers burned by persisting with do-it-yourself software, when there are specialists who can offer a cheaper, hassle-free alternative, asks Colin Beveridge.




Well, that’s Bonfire Night over for another year. No more ten-second bursts of dazzling glitter and deafening noise designed simply to amuse our inner child, relieve the autumnal gloom and to empty our wallets.

Sorry to sound like a spoilsport. I didn’t mean to open this piece with a negative thought about such a great British tradition.

But it does seem, to me, that when it comes to spending large sums of money for relatively small returns, buying fireworks for a back-garden bonfire party is second only to developing software products in-house.

In both cases, it would probably be far more efficient if we simply set fire to our money - at least the heat and light would last longer.

Perhaps this is just my natural Yorkshire thriftiness breaking out again, making me take a hard-nosed, rational view of the world.

Or, perhaps, I have just spent too much time lately staring at budget spreadsheets for next year, desperately trying to make sense of continuing to fund a large internal software development department.

Either way, I firmly believe that fireworks and software are best left to the experts.

We are far less likely to get our fingers burned if we buy them both in as a specialist service, as required, rather than struggling along on a permanent do-it-ourselves basis.

For sure, some of us still have our private family firework parties, but these are in the minority now as many people prefer to attend organised public displays where we can get more bangs for our bucks.

Why spend £20 for a handful of relatively unimpressive fizzles when you can see some really spectacular pyrotechnics for a fraction of the price - or possibly even for free (Yorkshire’s favourite price)?

And yet, when it comes to in-house software development, the same pragmatism does not yet prevail everywhere.

In many companies, expensive in-house software is the last great craft industry of the business world. An approach that persists largely for two reasons: a fundamental belief that our organisation is absolutely unique and an inherent desire to be completely self-sufficient.

The principles may be well-intentioned, but the consequences are not always beneficial. In-house software development is always risky and, generally speaking, expensive. Unless the process is extremely well-managed, the results may have the same effect as lighting a bonfire under the business itself.

My main concern, though, is that it isn’t only the business itself that may get burned by smouldering software - there is always the danger that it will be the unsuspecting public that suffers.

So, perhaps, the Trade and Industry secretary Patricia Hewitt, should now extend her recent concern about the public safety of fireworks and consider introducing appropriate regulations to protect us all from unsafe, or unsuitable software?

What do you think?

Do you think the advantages of developing software in-house outweigh the disadvantages?  Tell us in an e-mail >> reserves the right to edit and publish answers on the website. Please state if your answer is not for publication.

Colin Beveridge is an independent consultant and leading commentator on technology management issues. He can be contacted at [email protected]


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