In this time of rapid technological advancement where what used to be considered a complex, custom project can now be replaced by an off-the-shelf or out-of-the-box option, more end users and organizations are turning to do-it-yourself (DIY) solutions. While there are times when we are all end users and can appreciate the low cost, less hassle, and quick turnaround of simplified solutions that are seemingly easy to implement, what happens if they don’t go as planned?
In many instances, the decision between hiring a paid professional or pursuing the DIY route comes down to time, cost, and quality. It’s not a coincidence that these are the same criteria that represent the three primary forces in a project, also known as the scope triangle. Often these competing forces cannot be balanced or equally satisfied without sacrifice. Typically, two of the three criteria can be met leaving the third being compromised in some fashion. What that means is that if time and cost are the driving forces behind a DIY solution, the quality is likely to be subpar. Conversely, for a DIY solution, if quality and time are the primary focus, the cost can rise on the higher side.
While there are certainly times when a DIY solution is feasible and the outcome is successful, the times when results are less than ideal cause immediate and lasting effects on the fate of both end users and service providers, despite the fact that there was no engagement between them.
What can be done to make DIY solutions more effective and allow end users to be more successful, while not being totally dependent on service providers?
End users don’t have to only rely only on themselves when implementing DIY solutions. Involving a service provider in a DIY solution can be affectionately referred to as Do It Together (DIT). Whether it is to validate the solution before being selected or to provide support with the implementation to ensure its effectiveness, a service provider can be a valuable asset to an end user when implementing a DIT solution.
Service providers can also help in identifying the needs and prescribing the requirements for a DIY solution, so that end users can be more confident and effective in their evaluation of potential options. Many times, the challenge is not in the implementation; it is in determining what the solution needs to do in order to be effective. As is often the experience with the programming of custom control solutions, identifying what the user needs, wants, or expects is only the first step. Crafting the proper solution to meet those requirements is far more challenging than the actual installation, setup, code develop or configuration, and testing. Therefore, a service provider can be a real asset in truly understanding what the requirements of an effective solution are to avoid undesirable results.
One more option to consider would be working with a solution provider to develop a client-specific, custom-DIY-like solution that combines the benefits of an effective and reliable tailored solution with the flexibility and value of a DIY option. Solution providers can be instrumental in designing and developing this type of product that end users can personalize, modify, maintain, and implement on their own. An example of this concept can be found in field-customizable configured solutions that put end users in control of implementing systems and making minor adjustments for specific needs without relying on programmers for every change. These solutions require some upfront planning and investment but yield great value over time due to their ability to satisfy multiple system types with varied components using a single, easy-to-maintain code set rather than having a collection of unique, one-off solutions.
Aside from avoiding the frustration and costly mistakes that can result from ineffective outcomes, extra care should be taken when considering DIY solutions with regard to preserving the integrity of the industry and maintaining amiable relations between end users and service providers. While new, innovative approaches should always be considered, there is a time and place for everything. It is important to remember that the process of planning, defining needs, and vetting solutions should remain steadfast regardless of the perceived simplicity and ease of the solution.
Steve Greenblatt, CTS, is president and founder of Control Concepts, a provider of specialized software and services for the audiovisual industry.