% fortune -ae paul murphy

The homeowner's guide to systems development

When it comes to do it yourself home improvement projects I find myself in the position the typical small business owner is in with respect to computer systems: full of confidence that I understand what I don't and a bit bewildered that things keep turning out badly.

These things always look easier than they are, and because I'm only going to do them once there's a tendency to shoot holes in both feet first by cheaping out on tools and then by adapting the work plan as I learn what's really involved. As a public service, therefore - and not at all to work out the physic scars from my most recent project "success" - I've formulated the lessons from do it yourself home improvement as the top three rules for in-house systems development:

Rule one: don't.

Rule two: every dollar you save by not getting a professional to do it, will cost you five or more dollars in reduced functionality, increased operating cost, and delayed deployment.

Rule three: you can't tell the professionals from the scammers without doing the project yourself first.

Paul Murphy wrote and published The Unix Guide to Defenestration. Murphy is a 25-year veteran of the I.T. consulting industry, specializing in Unix and Unix-related management issues.