Many Pies

Many Pies

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Using volunteers to write programs

I'm assuming that you're in a small charity/non-profit. You don't have any programming staff, but you do have a volunteer who's offered to write a little program to solve a problem. Maybe they're going to write an Excel macro, or create an Access database for you.

However once they've finished and gone away, suppose it goes wrong, or you want something changing. How you can you prevent yourself getting stuck? The thing to do is make sure that you've sorted out a few things before they start:

  • What programming language are they going to use? Have you heard of it? Do you know anyone else who's heard of it? If it's something obscure then the chances are you won't be able to find anyone else to maintain it.
  • (You are going to need to maintain it. Even if it works now something will change in the future that will stop it working. Maybe the name of a server changes, or you rearrange the directories on your server, or you get a different printer, or you use different letters for your network drive, or it stops working when you upgrade to Windows 2010, or something else.)
  • They are going to document it aren't they? You need to have something written down about how it works so that should you need something changing then assuming you can find someone who knows about Excel Macros, or Access, or whatever, they will be able to find out enough about how it works that they can do it easily.
  • What should the document contain? Well, for a start, for all those things that might change - the drive letters, directories that it uses etc. - where do you change them in the program.
  • The document also needs to describe how you install the program on a new PC.
That should be enough to get you started.
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