Prototyping Small Systems
Some ideas need proof-of-concept rather than weighty [and expensive!] reports. Good mastery of open source tools and a broad general experience of computing gives us competitive advantage in this area.
Often, these are not big systems or modules, but they are components that link A to B [have you something in your office that you are retyping? You probably have!] or get data and publish it quickly as a dynamic web page. A couple of examples, below.
Here's a sample of meter readings from a THH building processed and put onto the web as a graph: http://www.barleymow-estate.org.uk/?p=78 The next step is to do this in real-time as a green monitoring initiative. Total programming time, one day, two open source tools: http://wordpress.org/ for the blog and flot: http://code.google.com/p/flot/ to graph the data.