One afternoon, I was working at my desk and there was a knock at the door. It was FedEx with a package. I signed for the package and took it to my office. What was in this package? It was a box of onions. Now these weren't just ordinary onions, but Walla-Walla Sweet Onions. Walla-Walla Sweets are onions that don't have the chemical in them that make you cry. In fact, they taste sweet (you can actually eat them like an apple), hence the name Walla-Walla Sweets.

So now you might ask, “why is Rod rambling on about a box of onions?” Well, let me get to that. You see, the box of onions was a big surprise to me. Inside the box was a card from a customer I did some consulting work for. This box of onions was payment for my services. What!?! A box of onions for consulting services, you ask? Yes, a box of onions.

The client asked some months before if I could help convert their application from Visual FoxPro to ASP (Active Server Pages). I answered as any consultant would, “Sure I can help.” They sent me information about their company and what they wanted to do. So one afternoon we had a conference call and I asked a key question: Why are you converting this application to ASP? The answer was, “Well, you see, we have 150 Mac workstations that need to access this application and there is no Visual FoxPro 5.0 for the Mac.” We talked a little further and I suggested they look into Citrix as a solution. “Citrix?” they asked. “Yes, you should look into Citrix because your application is complete and I bet Citrix has a Mac client.” They said they would look into it.

Well, a couple of months went by and this box of onions shows up. The card in the box reads, “Thanks for recommending Citrix. Everything is running great.”

So what is the point of this story? The point is: The job of a consultant is to recommend the best tool for the job. Commonly, consultants and company employees are faced with choosing a technology. Sometimes it is easy to wrap yourself in the security blanket of what you know and always choose a particular technology as “right” for the job. Well, this is not always the case. Sometimes you need to think outside of the box and explore different solutions. In my onion story, I could have enriched myself and taken their offer to build a cool ASP application. While this would have been good for me, it would not have been good for the client.

Next time you are asked to design or build an application, take a look at the tools and methods you chose. Did you choose the best tools for the job?