Mark McDonald

A member of the Gartner Blog Network

Mark P. McDonald
GVP EXP
8 years at Gartner
24 years IT industry

Mark McDonald, Ph.D., is a former group vice president and head of research in Gartner Executive Programs. He is the co-author of The Social Organization with Anthony Bradley. Read Full Bio

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Should IT play for food?

by Mark P. McDonald  |  February 25, 2011  |  3 Comments

Wednesday’s post discussed the difference between people playing for food or playing for fun. The analogy applies to the difference between pro-athletes who play for food and college athletes and others who play more for fun. The idea expressed in that post was that food and fun are part of the IT/Business context.

The question is, should IT play for food?

Playing for food means that you are tying your success directly to your ability to generate revenue or results in the business. Sales, marketing, product development are ares of the business that play for food. They miss their goals, they miss out on bonuses and probably their job. These functions work that way because its easy to measure their results in sales, profits, etc. The actions they take are immediately visible in these results so there is little latency between action and effect. Finally, the market and its compensation structure has grown up this way so people expect to be paid handsomely when it works and receive little or no pay when it does not.

IT does not work that way. But what if it did, what changes would be necessary to move IT toward that approach.

Well for one, it would have to become much easier to measure IT’s immediate impact on the business, so you know how to measure what people do.

Next IT would have to change the nature of their work Moving from larger and longer duration projects to a series of rapid releases and deployments. That is already happening now as organizations are deploying more agile or rapid approaches.

Changing the compensation structure of IT would also change the nature of the job. While there has always been a mercenary like market for ‘hot’ skills, what would it be like if everyone had their compensation more accurately marked to the market as well as directly compensated for what they create.

Should IT play more for food? Should 50 or 80% of IT compensation be tied to performance bonuses? What would that type of IT workforce do in an organization? What types of value would it create and which would it destroy?

I am not talking about a tech start up firm. Clearly those people play for food, but corporate IT, what happens when their compensation and focus changes.

I have no ideas, but its interesting to consider as moving IT, or any function, out of the back office and into the front requires changing the way its measured, valued and what it is expected to do. So what do you think?

Thanks

mark

3 Comments »

Category: IT Governance Leadership Personal Observation Strategy Uncategorized     Tags: , , , ,

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Michele Hudnall   March 1, 2011 at 8:36 pm

    First, Mark, I love your blogs!

    Absolutely! This is the heart of a business service management practice and in fact the vendors know more about your business, because they have to, than you do. Some are more honest than others, but I jumped the fence for this reason and I have a great real life story for you to read on The Hub. Do you want to be on the front page of the Wallstreet Journal? If you don’t figure it out, the press and the service providers do….. Read more here –> http://www.businessservicemanagementhub.com/2011/03/01/should-it-play-for-food-gartner-blogs/

    Michele Hudnall @HudnallsHuddle
    mhudnall@novell.com
    http://www.BusinessServiceManagementHub.com @BSMHub

  • 2 Business Service Management Hub | Should IT Play for Food – Gartner Blogs   March 2, 2011 at 11:41 am

    [...] Wednesday’s post discussed the difference between people playing for food or playing for fun. The analogy applies to the difference between pro-athletes who play for food and college athletes and others who play more for fun. The idea expressed in that post was that food and fun are part of the IT/Business context.  (Read Full Article…) [...]

  • 3 Jim   June 13, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    If IT is to play for food, IT must be s a constant innovator that can provide a business with key financial or market wins. In a business who’s business is IT they already play for food.

    In a business who’s business is not IT that is not the case as IT is now a service and an enabler. For those folks IT is more like the accounting department or the utilities. It needs to be there, it must be there to do business correctly, efficiently, and often legally, but its key elements are not innovation. The key elements of IT now (as we move toward IT as a comodity) are availability, consistenecy, dependability, and for any innovations, rapid user adaptation (usability). If IT doesn’t do those things then they will be playing for food somewhere else, but bonuses for consistency doesn’t seem to play well to executives.