One of the blogs I follow is Apartment Therapy, for no other reason than I found it a while ago and thought it was kind of cool. I don’t live in an apartment, but then, they don’t talk exclusively about apartments. For you writers out there, it’s a great source of pictures of living spaces which could work as settings for stories.
I’m pretty sure that it was on AT that I first saw the word “bespoke.” I had no idea what the word meant, and sort of blipped over it the first few times I saw it. The more I saw it, on that site and others, the more I figured I should learn what the word means. Looking it up, I learned that it is an adjective that describes anything that’s made to order, like a suit or a car. As we say in this country, custom-made. The opposite is something that’s sold as-is: a stock car, an off-the-rack suit, or a software package.
The company where I worked for 20 years developed and sold financial software. The software did roughly 80% of what a company wanted it to do, and they would customize it to do the other 20%. When I first started with the company, we discouraged our clients from modifying the code directly. We built user exits into the code that we told them was where they should put their modifications, we had ways for them to write custom reports (including a proprietary fourth-generation language that could also generate output files), and we would suggest ways that they could get the software to do what they wanted that didn’t require modifications to the code. If they wanted to modify the code, they were pretty much on their own: if it broke, they had to prove that it was our code and not theirs that was broken, and retrofitting their code when we came out with a new release was their responsibility.
That was our story, and we were sticking to it. Consulting firms and independent consultants had no such qualms about modifying software, and we were happy to allow them to have that business. In fact, we were happy to give their names and contact information to clients who needed to modify the software, which was just about everyone. Some clients, like the one I worked for before moving on, chose to do the modifications themselves. We had two systems from my future employer, one which we kept as close to delivered as we could, the other which we used as a base and which I modified the hell out of with the help of an outside consultant which had been recommended to us by my future employer. Naturally, when my future employer became my current employer, my previous employer was, as we say, SOL.
After a few years, we noticed that we weren’t making enough money off our software, while there were a bunch of consultants and consulting firms out there that were living high off the hog modifying our software, writing extensions to it, and blah blah blah. We also noticed that Client Support was spending more time on the phone explaining to consultants how the software worked and basically doing system analysis for them. It dawned on our corporate management that we were leaving an awful lot of money on the table by not being in the consulting business ourselves, and they decided that maybe we should get into the consulting business ourselves.
Thus, we got into the bespoke software business ourselves. That’s when I decided that I was meant to be a trainer. I had already had my fill of modifying software.
Stream of Consciousness Saturday is brought to you each week by Linda Hill and this station. Now a word from Remington Rand, makers of UNIVAC computers.
I might have used that commercial before, but it seems apropos here.