Are you the Builder or the Check-writer?

  • July 1, 2011
  • Scott

John Reynolds, always with a different perspective on BPM, recently addressed builders and business people:

I could have built this fence myself.  I’ve done similar projects in the past, and I’m not “that” old.  It’s hard work, but not more than I can handle…  But I chose to “pay the experts” instead of building it myself.
They do this for a living… I make my living doing other things.

By now you’ve probably figured out that there’s a lesson here that goes beyond home improvement…

I am a huge fan of enabling Business folks to build their own software solutions, but the fact remains that most people prefer to pay others rather than build things for themselves.  No matter how “business friendly” our tools become, most businesses will bring in builders when they need them.

I rephrased the question:  are you the builder or the check-writer?  Like John, I pay experts to do quite a bit of work at our house that I could probably do myself (or at least, learn how to do).  An early experience in my life taught me the value of expertise – not just knowing how to do something, but the value of being someone who does it all the time. My father was going to build a deck in our backyard, to replace a very small balcony that was about to fall apart.  He had staked out the area, and went so far as to calculate how much wood and cement he would need.  He even figured out which tools he would have to buy, or borrow from our neighbor the Fireman.

My father asked a builder to come out and bid on building it.  They said it would take two days. My father wisely decided that having the deck completed all summer was worth more than “saving” money by building it himself.  My first understanding of the time-value of money.  Or in this case, of what that money could buy (a completed deck).

This is among the many reasons we don’t worry about customers – business and technical – learning how to work with BPM.  We want them to learn.  We want the tools to make it more possible and likely  that business and technical users can be successful.  And we still think there will be plenty of work for specialists like BP3.

Because, like my father, I paid a builder to put up the deck at our home – and I have a better deck than I could ever have imagined building for myself.  (Quit laughing John!)


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  • I think the “key” is “Solution Visibility”.  You can inspect the Deck, understand “how” it was built, and (if the need arises) you can plan a change and estimate what it “should” take to implement that change…

    That way, you know if the builder’s bid is reasonable, and if their workmanship is worth the price.

    • Couldn’t agree more.  And to your point, being able to look at a diagram and see which parts are complete, incomplete, how the flow works, etc. – can really aid visibility (when compared to arcana like code and yes, rule sets)