Software – to build or buy

One of the things that I find myself thinking about lately is the concept of building software (custom code) versus the concept of purchasing an existing solution (buy). Custom code always concerns me from a sustainability perspective.

At some point organizations have to consider this question deeply.

Do I build or

Do I buy?

There are many factors that impact the decision. The first is simply the overall concept of custom code in and of itself. When an architect or developer builds a custom solution you are now beholden to those people for a time period to make changes, manage and delivery updates to the code.

The organization has to maintain the R&D costs of their solutions going forward.

The custom code may prohibit or deflect the migration to a new solution (because in the end you have to own that code.)

Which brings me back to the original point of building vs buying. When is it cost effective to build a solution rather than buy one?

Does building your own software slow down the overall enhancements of the software industry? People don’t often build their own cars …yet the automotive industry is a perfect example of why it’s better to have a build mentality – you have to wait for someone else to innovate.

Upside – no custom code – downside – no room for innovation.

The last friendly house

I’ve always thought of building solutions and enhancing JRR Tolkien’s concept of Rivendell – "The Last Friendly House." To me that seems to be the ultimate exclamation about what a solution should be, the last friendly house before the "non-solution" morass.

why is that?

To me a solution takes something that works today, but may not fill the requirements completely. Or worse, the requirements were never nailed down so you have a mouse designed to the specifications of a committee (sometimes called an Elephant). The solution then moves this closer to where the  customer is or needs it.

That is the last friendly house.

Over time a good architecture team can push the last friendly house further and future from the center of the organization (see Roger Sessions – Software Factories). This will allow the organization to build the patterns and processes that allow for rapid solution development.

But every organization that wants to tame the solution space they are in, needs that first last friendly house.

36 years and still working

The other day I was looking at my Swiss Army knife. I bought it in Ireland at a duty free store (back when you could still carry knives on airplanes).

We used it in Paris (or at least my parents did) to slice cheese, baguettes and open bottles of wine. I bought it in 1972 and still use the knife to this day.

Why is it that some things stick with us for years (using them over and over) and other things like cellular phones sometimes don’t even last 4 months?


What is the missing functionality? Again, 1 Swiss army knife, 36 years. One cellular phone (the last one I got)less than 4 months.

One stays with me, the other ends up on eBay.

There has to be some rhyme or reason for this.

What does compassion mean?

In 1990 I was a struggling divorced teacher who felt lost and confused. In October of that year I met someone who changed my life forever.

My best friend was working at a garage sale for the school where he was working. At the garage sale one of the mothers who was working with him, asked him if he knew any other nice guys. My best friend/roommate said "no, but there is my roommate."

Anyway, I met this young lady about a week later. My best friend invited her to our house for dinner. On the night in question I was making potato soup and chocolate chip cookies, the cookies were a reward for my class.

During the evening (my friend never did make it home in time for dinner – in fact years later he admitted it was all a setup and that he never intended to make it home) i talked to this young lady. I am not a believer in big romantic love at first sight anything. But in one night I fell in love with a woman.


Without a doubt she is and remains the most compassionate person I have ever met. Even now, nearly 20 years later, her eyes still burn with fire when she talks about the issues that are important to her. She has become my friend, my wife and my spiritual guide.

What does compassion mean? It means caring no matter what. Compassion means my wife.

Dearest – I love you so!

Joy and Happiness

I was playing Halo3 with my kids last night. While I realize that this isn’t a "standard" parent child activity we had a blast.

It has made me think about my children and what a joy they have become. When they were little, and I was "the dad" changing diapers and feeding them, I got a great level of satisfaction.

Now however, they are interesting people, no longer appendages that I have to "care for." and I find that I enjoy spending time with them more and more.

What a wonderful gift children are.

Alas poor communication, I knew him well.

(with apologies to Mr. Shakespeare)

What is communication? I talk to you, you talk to me? I hear what you are saying and parrot it back? I read something and tell someone else what I read? All of these? None of these? Something else?

Why is communication so hard? I work with smart all the time. The one thing I have to say often is that they don’t listen. Listening I think, is as important as talking is, when you are using the verb communicate.

These are smart people who don’t listen, or worse, continue the conversation after you’ve left the room. They then come back with a completely different answer then the one you had agreed upon less than 10 minutes before.

And why is it that people don’t communicate well?

Why do people think that letting other people talk before rebutting their ideas is communication?

Why do people believe that during a brainstorming session it’s ok to tell people their ideas suck?

It’s because we don’t communicate.

Communication is a value proposition. Something that helps us humans reach out beyond the emptiness and share something.

Its that that world "share" that is what communication is all about. Sharing…reaching a common place where both parties can equally enjoy an idea. It’s not about who is the most sarcastic. Or about who is the quickest with a one liner. It’s about sharing.

Which sadly seems to be lost.

The signs of bad communication:

  1. My idea is so important I can’t wait to interrupt you. I call this the Arnold Horshack syndrome personally (oohh ohhh Mr Kotter, Mr Kotter).
  2. Your idea is so stupid I have to not only dismiss the idea I have to dismiss you as a person. ( I call this the Dilbert issue – your thoughts have no substance – which is why they can escape from the black hole that is your intellect). This is also sometimes called the "smartest guy in the room" syndrome.
  3. Grab the marker, take over the whiteboard and "don’t listen" syndrome. personally I call this one the dancing bear syndrome. Taking the marker and standing at the whiteboard performing for the audience – I find it very entertaining.
  4. That is not the way it is, syndrome (we’ve always shaved our heads in the past to celebrate Christmas so we are doing it again this year).
  5. The "we don’t have any more time for this topic" used to stop a conversation. Sometimes called the "let’s take this offline" syndrome.

All of these little bombs destroy communication. They rend the three essential pieces of communication and destroy them.

The next time you are at a meeting or on a con call – listen – identify people leveraging these techniques and see who they are on your team. Hopefully you aren’t leveraging number 2 or 3.

What are the signs of good communication?

  1. People listen to ideas – they don’t dismiss them they write them down.
  2. People validate the ideas of others by bringing them back up and referencing the person by name (Bill said this earlier …)
  3. Instead of interrupting they ask, may I interject if it won’t knock you off your train of thought?
  4. Would anyone else like to step up to the whiteboard?
  5. We don’t have time to finish this discussion – but it is a good one. How about 1 pm tomorrow to finish this…
  6. we’ve never done that here in the past – we should investigate that.

Communication – the art of listening.


– more later!

Check out my twitter: DocAndersen

Why are we asked for more?

Those who give a lot – exceeding the requirements and going above and beyond are the ones that are asked time and time again, can you give more?

Every time someone pushes me a little harder, I think why did I try in the first place? Why did I put forth extra effort at all?

It makes me feel like a commodity and not a person. Which then adds to the frustration I have since I already kicked it into overdrive to get to where I was.

Oh well. I guess it is just the way the ball bounces.