My Dad owned his own flooring business and I grew up in construction surrounded by some of the best contractors, plumbers, and electricians in the industry, all of whom took the time to teach me. Framing, plumbing, electrical work – I can do them all.
The other weekend I was replacing an old door on my house and found that water was getting behind the siding, and it had rotted away the sheathing. I cut that away and found quite a bit of damage.
At this point I had a decision to make – fix it myself, or call somebody to fix it for me. I have all of the tools, and I know how to fix it, but I ultimately decided to close it up, and call a contractor to do the big work.
I got to thinking about the correlation between my decision on this project and large-scale IT projects in general, (I’ve done quite a few of those recently), and came up with 3 reasons why, even though you can probably do them yourself, you’re crazy if you do.
I live 60 miles from our Kittery corporate office, so I’m in my car 2 hours per day – my day is too long to be working on a construction project during the week, which means I’d be doing the work on a weekend. Because I work so many hours during the week, I’d rather spend time with my family than working on the house.
Besides that, I’d be working by myself and would have to make runs to get supplies – it’d take me a couple of weekends at least to fix this correctly.
A professional contractor can come in and blow through it in a couple of days.
It’s really the same thing with major IT projects, isn’t it? Pick a project – let’s use an Exchange migration from 2007 to 2010 as an example.
It’s not terribly difficult to install Exchange and migrate users to the new server (if you know what you’re doing), but how long will it take you to do it, along with all of the other projects you have going on at the same time? I can tell you because I did it myself for GreenPages just last quarter and it took a long time (that’s a technical term meaning a whole bunch of late nights.)
Hire a professional team to do the work, and that same migration can be done in a few days, all while you’re working on your other priorities.
Worried that you’ll “miss out” on the install? Think of it this way – unless you’re in the business of doing Exchange migrations, do you (should you) really care if you know how to install Exchange, or isn’t it sufficient to be handed a working system that you can manage?
I know how to fix my wall and the rotten sill plate – using 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s technology and techniques. That’s because I learned how to do these things during those years.
Can I still fix it? Sure. But – it probably won’t be the best way to fix it, because I guarantee there are better materials and more efficient ways to do it, so why not do it the best way possible?
Go back to that Exchange migration again. Did you know that Exchange Shell scripts that used to run in Exchange 2007 don’t necessarily work in 2010? Or that if you have a Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES) you need to set up proper throttling policies in Exchange, otherwise you’re limited to 10 concurrent connections to Exchange?
Microsoft doesn’t tell you that stuff during the install – you have to find it out for yourself, usually after things crash and fix it the old fashioned way: IT's Best Friend....Google...
Hire somebody who knows what they’re doing, however, and it all changes. My sill gets fixed with the latest technology, and your Exchange project gets done correctly the first time. After all, both contractors have done this way more than you, and they’ve got the benefit of experience on their side.
This brings me to my last point. If something goes wrong when I’m fixing my house – I cut the wrong thing, or break something else in the process, I’m on the hook to fix it – on my own dime – or I have to hire the guy to fix what I’ve screwed up, which will end up costing me more than having him do it in the first place.
If I hire somebody else to do the work and he screws up – he has to deal with it. But, if I choose wisely, get references, and get the right person to do the job, the likelihood of a problem is pretty low.
Same thing with that Exchange migration. If you screw it up, you’re taking your company’s major line of communication down for however long it takes to get it fixed (you do have Microsoft’s technical support line handy, don’t you?), or you’re calling in an expert to fix it for you. Ultimately it’s your decision to take on a major IT project. Can you do them yourself and save some money? Absolutely.
But you’re crazy if you do.