Software Development vs. Home Improvement

under-constructionWe’re all familiar with the software development project that went off the rails, took too long to complete, didn’t fulfill the original requirements or wasn’t completed to proper quality standards.

Have you ever lived through a kitchen upgrade or a renovation to a house?

All I will say is that those kinds of projects make virtually every software release I’ve been part of look and smell like a bed of roses.

Seriously. At least there is a real level of discipline in software development. There is a sense of rigour and structured model that people work by.

There is nothing at all like that in most home reno projects.  Contractors come and go as they please. They say they’ll show up at 10 AM, but don’t show up until 2 PM the next day (!) and don’t call to tell you that they are delayed.

Every aspect of the project, from floors to electrical to plumbing to tiling to counters etc. all are done by different people who have no clue how to work together. They all speak their own professional dialects and don’t want to leave the silos they inhabit. Little is documented along the way unless the home owner forces it to happen, and in the end, if something goes wrong, unless it is patently obvious it is a particular person’s fault, the finger pointing happens without hesitation.

I used to think that auto mechanics were the least trustworthy people I’d ever dealt with:

So Mr. Khan, while we were changing your oil, we noticed that your transmission is leaking and there’s a major problem with the alignment. We don’t consider the vehicle roadworthy.

but it seems home reno tradesman are a rung lower.

As you may have guessed, I’ve been dealing with these people lately. We found an excellent roofer in the Toronto area — seriously, need your roof repaired, I know the perfect person, just ask me — but on the other hand, we’ve had to deal with a window company that has not fixed problems with windows they installed over 1 year ago!

All I’ll say is that, the home reno industry is ripe for the picking if some outfit came along and delivered on what they promised for a fair price and provided dependable service.

Makes me really consider hanging up my software hat and getting into some hardware that isn’t based on silicon chips! If I don’t do it, I’m sure someone else will, and from where I’m standing, the competitive bar is set really low.



2 responses to “Software Development vs. Home Improvement

  1. A home renovation is the software development equivalent of a legacy code update to a custom app done by several unaffiliated outsourced teams. That is why a general contractor who gathers good requirements and uses a small pool of specialists makes all the difference. If the specialists are used to working together, know what their part in the whole project is, and the general contractor is accountable for the success of the entire project, things generally work out not too badly.

  2. Hi Geordie

    Getting a crew who all work together for a kitchen reno is not easy and will really drive up the cost of the overall project.

    Yes, a general contractor — akin to a Dev. Manager — can smooth things out, but unless you know someone well and can totally trust them, there’s still a big risk. And since most of us aren’t constantly renovating our houses, most of us usually don’t have a good relationship with someone like that.

    Here’s one contractor who not only does the job, but has become famous, by branding himself as the guy who “does it right”.

    If you’re not familiar with the show, check out some of the episodes and see the kind of sloppy practices and poor workmanship that occur regularly. It’s truly scary for the uninitiated homeowner.