Is your business OK with OTK?

Is your business OK with OTK?

By Janice Summers

I love DIY projects! I find them truly irresistible. I relish each and every facet of them. From concept to completion, there is nothing I don’t enjoy. For me, there is nothing more rewarding than seeing something I created being brought to fruition. Perhaps it is the influence from my early years and being raised in a family of DIY practitioners.

Recently I undertook a new DIY project. I needed a fairly specific type of bench / book shelf combo unit with customized features. Rather than hire someone to do it or get a readymade out-of-the-box solution, I decided this would be a perfect opportunity for a new DIY project. So I set out with an idea and started drafting the specifics of the design, selected the materials I would create it out of, and dove in. Having been an engineer by trade and training years ago, I always look forward to getting my hands into a physical project.

Now, I am not a wood worker by any stretch of the imagination but I thought, “How hard can it be?!” I have a hammer, a hand saw, a good pencil, and an accurate tape measure. Besides, I figured it would be a whole lot cheaper if I just did it myself.  Or so I thought….

Eventually I did finish the project and I did finish it on time (just in time) but I did blow the budget. The end product, even though I do like it, is flawed and not “production ready” by any means. It’s fine for the limited application I need for it and, since I am the only user, it’s good enough.

The experience got me to thinking about the correlation between building customized furniture and building company specific solutions for content creation and delivery.

Just like me, there are the DIY people out there who relish the opportunity to dig in and create their own solution. After all, there are Open Source tools out there for anyone to take advantage of. Better yet, they really don’t cost anything to use. There open for all and you think, “Hey I can save our company a ton of money?” All you need is a little ingenuity and a well laid out plan to get things rolling. Right?

Well, not so fast. You will need a bit more than just a plan drafted out. You will need some really stellar programming skills for starters. Then you will need the time, lots of time. But don’t forget, business doesn’t stop and wait for you to catch up so you may need a consultant or two or three to help you along the way.

Eventually you will get there…well, at least most of the way. You will need to fine tune your creation along the way and add features and functions because all you really got out of the initial hours and hours and hours of work was the bare bones. Then you will also need to go back and fix those little tweaks you over-looked in the beginning because the point of the tool is to have it ready for production. Of course, once you release it into the wild for others to use, in come the stream of issues and function requests. So you’ll need to start building those fun little “features” and then rolling out the new revisions. Cross your fingers that it won’t break something else along the way because that means hours in chasing the elusive “bug”.

Oops, I forgot to mention that your OTK will need to play nicely with other tools. Well, you need to spend time integrating that too. While you’ve been busy chasing the finish line, time has passed and those other tools you need to integrate with have been juiced up and, well, now you need to upgrade. Crap! Now that you have upgraded, it’s back to development because your Open Tool needs to keep pace.

Fast forward a year down the road and suddenly you realize you are on a treadmill that never stops and you never get finished. Not really. The cost in consulting fees and man hours for your company is too embarrassing to look at. Then you realize, this is not the career you signed up for so you dust off your resume and bail ship.  But hey, you got to sharpen some programming skills and that looks good on your resume. What about the company?

You see, my advice, unless you really want to become a software development company specializing in customized Open Source tools for product information, buy a real solution that someone else has to maintain and keep the DIY projects for your “Honey Do’s” on the weekend.

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