Do You Build New Systems or Maintain Old Ones?

Written by lewsauder

October 8, 2012

build new systems

Do you build new systems?

If you’re like me, you don’t’ like to put a lot of money into your home for maintenance.  To me, there’s just not a lot of gratification to maintenance.

For example, I recently installed a new sump pump in my home.  Since then, not a single person has complemented me on how nice my house looks with the new sump pump.  It was just maintenance work that needed to be done.

By contrast, a neighbor of mine just ha d a new brick patio installed with a built-in fire pit.  It’s beautiful and they’ve gotten some nice complements on it.  (As much as I love their new patio, my jealous side wonders how crappy their sump pump looks compared to my shiny new one).

But the difference is that we all like the sexy projects that create something new and – hopefully improve the way things look and work.

Some maintain existing systems

It’s not all that different in the business world.  They have software systems, marketing plans and many other processes, assets and systems that make up their “house”. A server goes down? There’s an infrastructure team to handle it.  An exception comes up with the order entry process?  The order entry team resolves it and may adopt a new policy for whenever that situation occurs.

Some build new systems

But if a new software system has to be developed, the company will often hire a consulting firm to help them implement it.  Hiring a consulting firm with deep knowledge of the software application and the project management and programming skills to do it will greatly improve the chances of getting it done right.  And it will free up the company’s staff to continue to maintain the legacy system until the project eventually replaces it.

So consultants are hired to build new systems; new, exciting projects that get the attention of the executives and are often more visible to the external customers.  And the company’s employees are relegated to maintain the old ones.  Consultants put in the beautiful patio and employees replace the sump pumps.

It’s not always the case.  Some companies have a team of their own employees implement new software systems and hire consultants for ongoing maintenance of their servers and applications.  Just as some do-it-yourselfers put in their own patios and some hire an expert to install the sump pump.

But more often than not, the consultants get the exciting and challenging work that also includes learning newer technologies or the latest best practices.

People have asked me why five years of experience in consulting is better than the same experience at a non-consulting firm.  This is the primary reason.  Often times, five years of experience outside of consulting is really one year of experience five times over.

There are no hard and fast rules.  Consultants get pigeon-holed without opportunities for growth and non-consultants find growth challenge and – most importantly – job satisfaction.

See my related post: The Difference between Consultants and Employees

But one has to do their homework to determine what the company has to offer and what they want out of a job and their career before committing to working there.

Do you build new systems or maintain old ones in your current job?

If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at

Lew’s Books at Amazon:

Project Management 101
Consulting 101
The Reluctant Mentor

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