POV: Working with Independent Programmers
Oct 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Marc Lavecchia
With more than 250 established independent programming firms worldwide, more and more integrators and consultants are turning to this group of industry professionals to provide quality programming of control systems, audio DSP systems, and lighting systems, as well as configurable devices such as codecs and switchers. Independent programmers are individuals or companies not employed by hardware vendors or integrators that provide programming expertise and service for hire.
The InfoComm Independent Programmers Council is preparing a new document designed to guide AV integrators and consultants toward the benefits and expectations of working with independent programmers. The document, which will soon be distributed in various formats including an abbreviated form as a marketing mailer, is designed to spell out specifically what type of services and benefits can be expected from an independent programmer. A central focus of the report is what defines an independent programmer. Industry professionals can look at what characteristics to look for in an independent programmer, as well as profiles and an in-depth look at the types of projects for which they are hired to develop programs. It also delves into precisely what an integrator and/or consultant should consider when hiring an independent programmer — including variables such as company size and location and the complexity, size, and requirements of the project.
The Scope of Services section of this paper takes a close look at the benefits provided by hiring an independent programming firm, beyond the simple delivery of code. Topics discussed include:
- Tapping into an independent programmer's knowledge for verification of system designs and functionality
- Using that knowledge to preemptively caution clients of potential issues and pitfalls faced on similar type projects
- Verifying the integration and control of all devices
- Providing inhouse testing, as well as discussing onsite versus remote support
- Delivering training and user manuals.
The paper also addresses the sometimes challenging aspect of drawing up a working agreement and project terms. This includes a breakdown of the proper way to clearly communicate and agree to terms for working with an independent programming firm — including providing detailed quotes, business agreements, and/or contracts. It also recommends a full outline of specifically what the agreements should spell out. This includes items such as bill of materials, system functionality requirements, requested deliverables and services, scheduling details, and division of responsibilities.
The need for support and communication should never be overlooked. This report provides a detailed look at the importance of (and demand for) effective communications between independent programmers and their clients. It outlines the areas where consistent support and communication have the most effectiveness — whether it involves scheduling, project details, or post-project follow-up.
In order to bring maximum benefit to the reader, the document will also include sample quote-request forms, proposals, contracts, scope-of-work definition and acceptance forms, onsite-support and site-readiness forms, system signoff forms, and user/operations manuals.
It is our hope that by providing the AV industry with this critical information, the value proposition for working with independent programmers will become more widespread, and it will be easier than ever before to work with this burgeoning team of professional service providers.
More information about independent programmers can be found at www.infocomm.org.
Marc LaVecchia is CEO/principal of BMA Software Solutions of Placentia, Calif., and a member of InfoComm International's Independent Programmers Council.
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