I’ve been thinking about Doc Searls IT Garage, which deals with DIY IT, where organizations take things into their own hands to provide the solutions they need by putting together various bits and pieces themselves rather than rely on vendors to do it all for them.

As someone who is a proponent of open-source, and a long time DIYer, it’s right up my alley. I’ve always tried to find my own solutions to problems in an organization rather that try to find someone I think can solve my problems with a boxed solution. It’s just the hacker mentality I guess.

But why do some people choose the vendor solution, or the in-a-box answer to problems? I think part of it might be social, and ego related. Years ago I used to deal with vendors, and vendors like to make you happy. They like to talk to you, and tell you things, and invite you to events, and give you gifts, and check in on you. For someone who wants an ego boost, or really likes that sort of interaction with people, it’s a great thing. Building a relationship with a vendor probably looks good in the corporate view of things.

Then there’s the other side, finding you own solution, dealing with developers of open-source projects on mailing lists and IRC, and compiling and installing things, and configuring them and getting them to work… Most of this is not glamorous, and no one is trying to “be your buddy” but in the end you get things to work and you solve a problem. No gifts, no “best friends” or “building relationships with a vendor” but in the end you get your solution. Problem solved. Your way. Probably for less money…

Vendors can also give you a support leg to stand on. Doesn’t work? Talk to the vendor! Work with the vendor to figure it out. It’s a failure? The vendor proposed the wrong solution! With the DIY method, you’re all on your own, with no one to blame. (Accountability!)

There will always be a need for vendors, and that’s fine, as long as they provide a real “value-added service” and that service is more than just boosting someone’s ego or making a new contact in your social network…

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