Ripping off the band-aid is easier if you never put it on.

I have a confession to make. I am responsible for at least 4 "BI solutions" at 3 different companies that were implemented with Microsoft Office products. Yes, there are Excel and Access reports out in the wild that I authored. This post is penance for my sins.

My only saving grace is that I stated at the beginning of each project that I didn't think it was the best tool for the job. Each time I was told that it was a temporary fix until the real system could be implemented in a few months. Unfortunately, I've found that most of those band-aids are still in use.

Had these solutions been written in an appropriate tool in the first place, the clients for which they were written would likely have saved a lot of money in the long run. Here are some red flags to keep an eye out for on quick, "one off", projects.

Flag 1 – We will be implenting a more robust solution later, so you can take some shortcuts with what you're working on.
Reality 1 – This will actually end up being a long term fix, so write it as maintainable as possible.

Flag 2 – Because it's temporary, it shouldn't take too long to code.
Reality 2 – The client is paying you, and therefore will expect that same rigor they would get from a "real" solution. "Temporary" here means they can abbreviate the time line.

Flag 3 – We'll have the long term solution in our production system in 6 months.
Reality 3 – Its going to take 3-4 months to write the band-aids and get them approved. There's little chance the production system fix is going to be started,let alone finished in 6 months. A 6 month vision here further supports not doing band aids in the first place.

Flag 4 – We can use desktop software it'll be fine.
Reality 4 – Desktop software is great… for desktop solutions. If you're rolling out something that will be used by a lot of people it probably shouldn't be something that needs to be saved locally by each of them.

Flag 5 – We don't want to involve IT because they will require too much overhead.
Reality 5 – The reason IT has so much overhead is because they know what to ask. The consultant doing the quick fix should have the same questions, and he probably doesn't know your business as well as your IT department, so he will likely miss something.

I suspect part of the reason that these solutions are still in place is at least partially the mental hurdle of having to repeat development efforts. Yes, it's a workable solution that was paid for, that doesn't mean that it should be left in place forever. As everyone knows, the longer you leave a band-aid in place the more it hurts to rip it off.