Years ago it was all about how much, how big and how bright your “thing” was and money was flowing out of every IT shop in the world – it was also during this time that I was constantly looking at Open Source and any and every solution I could find to do my job that had a zero price tag on it. I was not always the most loved amongst my peer developers for that very reason – they wanted more, more and then some more. Upgrades, new licenses the newest tools.
Imagine what you can do though with so little?
“Three enterprising MIT students have successfully launched and retrieved a digital camera in order to snap photos of the earth from the upper atmosphere — and they did it all for under $150.”
Or how about?
“There is, it turns out, a whole community of very smart folks out there on the internet perfecting the art of building DIY multi-touch surfaces. The process isn’t exactly simple, but the results we saw were stunning: multitouch surfaces with responsiveness rivaling Microsoft’s $12,000 offering, built in a garage on a shoestring budget. ‘Future UI article be damned,’ we thought, ‘we’ve gotta build one of these for ourselves.’”
I’m a huge fan of multi-touch surfaces and if I ever manage to find the time I’m going to try my hand at building one.
However back to my original point, creativity and freedom to be creative are the keys – enable that in your folks and there’s nothing they can’t accomplish – stifle and you stifle innovation.
I clearly remember years ago, one of my first big assignments in a company I just joined was to help the manufacturing department. They needed a database. They had no budget for it and they were not sure what exactly they needed but they needed “something” – I looked at my boss, he smiled and walked away. The other senior developers looked at me and said “welcome aboard”.
Being someone who decided that I’d rather “teach a person to fish” I thought of this brilliant scheme, err I mean plan to enable them to do their own application.
“Before I get ahead of myself let´s go back and look at each question individually. So onto the first question. ‘What is a user changeable application?’; in short this is a program that has it´s displays and functions controlled by the users who use the application. OK, before you ask is it smart to leave this in the hands of a user, let´s move on to the next two questions. ‘Why would a person want one?’; this is also answered very simply. A user wants one because they don´t have the time or money to keep a developer busy with this one application. Perhaps they need the developer to create several applications and their budget only allows them a short period for each application. All in all, everything sounds logical so far, right? Our third question, ‘Why would a developer make one?’, quite simply put, he has no choice, he is hired to do an application and therefore he has to make it. As a developer we all hate to work like that because we feel as though our experience is being pushed aside for the sake of a few dollars.”
Companies like Zoho do this much better now but back then there was nothing other than Microsoft’s Access application and that didn’t work very well for them.
Had my boss never let me “go for it” I’d probably never have come up with the idea or given it a go so the next time you are thinking about something consider all your options and not just the one with the nice price tag (sometimes the one without a price tag is even nicer!)