Independent programmers are sometimes shadowy figures whose existence is not fully acknowledged - as integrators don't always like to admit that they don't possess the relevant expertise in-house. Cliff Stammers of Oxberry Limited describes what independent programmers can contribute to custom installation projects, and argues the benefits of getting them involved in the process at an early stage.
Many great things are achieved by individuals, but things of scale and great wonder are rarely built by one person alone. It often takes partnerships to pull those big and disparate ideas into a cohesive whole. Take any custom installation for example; from the source kit manufacturers to the installation company, there are a multitude of partnerships at work. And as systems are being designed with an ever growing number of requirements being called in to play, so the theme of partnerships is becoming stronger in providing a stable framework around which more complicated systems are being designed.
Many companies recognise the benefit of working closely with others - not least of all, control system pioneer Crestron. By the very nature of its business, which is providing an integration platform for a multitude of third party operations, Crestron actively encourages co-operation at varying stages of their processes. One of these partnerships is with the company's Crestron Authorised Independent Programmers, or CAIPs. CAIPs are a team of individuals worldwide who have built careers on making Crestron products perform efficiently and effectively, and who are called upon routinely to turn often ephemeral ideas into facts and events that directly affect how Crestron products are perceived.
As you'd expect, running a successful CAIP service involves product knowledge and technical know-how, but this accounts for just a small percentage of what makes up a successful project. There's a lot more than just programming ability on offer from a flourishing collaboration between installers and freelance programmers - which brings us back to partnerships.
Crestron Authorised Independent Programmers can see the entire landscape of a project from their standpoint, and are a remarkably useful partner from the very beginning of each project. CAIPs know all the pitfalls, and understand implicitly what makes good practice - and what doesn't. They know which products are efficiently programmable, and again, more importantly, they know which products are dreadful to control. CAIPs are extremely useful partners when it comes to managing client expectations, because they know where the boundaries are. They know how far to push things on some projects, and when to rein in the fancy stuff on others.
This is a crucially important role for the company, and so it's no surprise that Crestron regulates very closely the work that this elite band of software buccaneers undertake in its name. To that end, Crestron established its CAIP Accreditation Scheme in the UK and Europe in 2003, and embraced the eight companies that operated as freelance programming outfits at that time. One of which was - and still is - my company: Oxberry Limited. To qualify as a member, each independent programmer has to undertake an exhaustive examination that takes about a month to complete. This ensures only the most dedicated and committed make the grade and earn their CAIP stripes.
Forming a programming partnership from the outset of a job saves a lot of hassle later on and is essential when embarking on your projects of profound magnificence. Put it this way: if you are planning on building a system that rivals the Large Hadron Collider in its complexity, make sure you've asked someone early into the project how it is that you're going to switch it on.
Cliff Stammers can be contacted by phone on +44 (0)208 397 5624, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org