DIY Homebuilding and Other Bad Ideas

August 29, 2023
Zack Warren

I love changing lightbulbs – it’s quick, useful, and so very satisfying.

But pouring a foundation or laying a roof? Heck no, that would be a complete disaster. In both homebuilding and data analytics, Construction should usually be outsourced, but Upkeep should be done in-house.

Outsource the Heavy Lifting

We bought our house in 2011 – four bed, four bath, a solid foundation, a pretty good roof. We looked at dozens of homes before pulling the trigger with different styles and ages of homes, different neighborhoods, old homes, even a brief flirtation with a new build.

But one thing we never once considered? Physically constructing our own. As in pouring foundations or framing it ourselves, laying a roof or hanging siding. That would be catastrophically slow and expensive. I don’t have the right training or experience – my time in petroleum engineering hasn’t prepared me for that. I could potentially develop the skills, but why? Those skills don’t interest me, and there’s a huge labor force of construction pros who would be competent on Day One.

Data analytics projects have the same pattern – it takes a lot of skill and experience to chop wood on things like enterprise software implementations and data warehousing projects. The tools are certainly getting better and easier to use, but there are design choices and common mistakes that are hard to navigate without experience.  By doing it yourself, you’re learning on the job (great!) while paying for your own mistakes (not so great!).

Would it be better to pay someone who’s already learned from a few mistakes in the past, on someone else’s dime? Yeah, maybe DIY homebuilding has some risks…

Do the Upkeep (That You Enjoy) Yourself

Easy, routine maintenance is a totally different story – like most people, we change the lightbulbs, swap out AC filters, and wash the dishes in our house. I know which bulb types I like (2700K LEDs thankyouverymuch) and get such a nice dopamine hit from seeing a room better lit after just 2 minutes of work. I’m capable of those tasks, and calling an outsourcer would be more work than just getting it done.

But even in upkeep, I have my limits. I enjoy touching up paint and cleaning the garage, but I draw a firm line at plumbing repair (based on painful experience!). Other people love repair and renovation work – my uncle does extremely complex projects like decks, sheds, woodworking shops and more. He’s good at it, and he loves doing it.

Again, data analytics projects have the same pattern. You need to tweak the formatting of a report in Spotfire or Power BI? You should learn to do that yourself in the long run – calling a 3rd party will be slower and more expensive. But what about writing SQL queries, testing out a new AI algorithm, or rebuilding a data integration flow? For each company, the right place to draw the line is going to be different.

If you have BI developers, data engineers, and a robust technology skillset on staff, DIY repair and renovation makes a lot of sense. But if you’re a super lean team with everyone wearing five hats? More outsourcing probably pays out.

Construction Lasts But a Moment, but Upkeep Lasts a Lifetime

New home construction takes 8 months on average in the U.S., with a huge range in outcomes.  If you’re only going to need Construction skills for a little while, why build in-house capabilities? On the flip side, I’ve been changing lightbulbs and AC filters for decades, and I don’t see an end in sight. Learning to do my own Upkeep has paid out over, and over, and over again.

This conflict – the need for short-term Construction help, paired with the long-term need for Upkeep to be in-house – is the basic reason Velocity Insight exists.

We want to be a team with unparalleled skills around designing architectures, pouring foundations, framing, and roofing (in a data analytics kind of way, of course). Alongside that, we love teaching people how to keep what we build running efficiently and effectively.

And maybe help you renovate that powder bathroom down the road.

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