DIY culture: should non-IT employees be compensated for building apps?

DIY culture: should non-IT employees be compensated for building apps?

Summary: All along, we've been led to believe that the DIY technology movement was about simply being able to do a better job at what you do. How naive, right?

TOPICS: CXO, Apps, IT Employment, DIY

A new survey from QuickBase, a unit of Intuit Inc. finds that nearly one in five information workers at mid-size to large enterprises have built or customized a Web application or software for work purposes on their own.

One of the ultimate goals of service oriented architecture and cloud is to enable end-users to build or contract for front-end applications, as they need them, that can effortlessly access other applications or data within the enterprise's back-end systems. IT pros are leery about giving end-users too much leeway here, but in a well-designed and well-governed architecture, such apps should do what they need to do without running afoul of corporate standards or over-taxing back-end servers.

Great stuff, and such an environment will go a long way to providing enterprises all the "ilities" -- agility, flexibility and scalability. It also helps business users do their jobs a lot better, because they help steer their own digital destinies.

This burst of fringe-tech activity by business types raises another question, however. Should non-tech folks who build their apps be compensated or rewarded for doing so?  Should application development be a part of job descriptions and pay grades outside the IT department?  That's the question put forth in the survey. In fact, a majority of the DIYers in the survey, 58%, believe their employers should recognize their efforts in the form of financial compensation. However, among DIYers whose companies explicitly do not support their independent efforts, the percentage increases to 71%.

All along, we've been led to believe that the DIY technology movement was about simply being able to do a better job at what you do. How naive, right?

Don't get me wrong -- it's great to encourage user initiative, and as stated above, enterprises should support well-designed architectures and governance structures that make creativity and innovation happen. And Mnookin, vice president and general manager of Intuit QuickBase, assures us that recognition actually need not be monetary: “A little recognition can go a long way. Supporting and recognizing DIY efforts – no matter how you do it – pays off. You’re motivating and rewarding employees who go above and beyond their job descriptions, make their teams more efficient, and solve problems for their companies. Endorsing and celebrating internal innovation can fuel its rapid spread throughout the organization.”

Other forms of recognition respondents found rewarding include publicizing their solutions internally (33%) and getting promoted (25%).

Not surprisingly, computer and IT services firms have the highest percentage of DIY information workers, the survey found, with 62% of respondents reporting they have built or customized apps for work. Conversely, these firms are not necessarily empowering their workers to create their own solutions – either by providing the required tools or authorizing employees to find and use their own. In fact, 43% of the DIYer population at computer and IT service firms said they are not empowered by their organizations. Hmm -- that is surprising, considering that's what vendors incessantly preach.

Professional services companies reported the second-highest amount of DIYers at 53%. And their employees are more likely to feel free to act on their own. A total of 61% of the DIYer population said they were empowered by their companies to innovate on their own, the highest among all industries. Professionals in consultancy roles are constantly driven to solve client problems and this data indicates they likely nurture that innovative mentality amongst their employees.

The financial services and insurance industries, where tight IT controls and deep-seated work processes are commonplace, have the highest percentage of non-empowered DIYers. At the same time, however, 43.5% still create their own solutions. Rebels with a cause.

“DIYers create lasting value companies should love. Endorsement from management propels the success of DIY solutions even further,” Mnookin added.

In fact, 85% of apps created by empowered DIYers are still being used within their organization or team, while non-empowered workers see sustained adoption rates of 77% for their solutions.

Topics: CXO, Apps, IT Employment, DIY

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Remember this guy?

    Mordac the Preventer of Information Services? He's the reason users build apps--it's a matter of necessity as well as understandable rebellion.
    • RE: Mordac

      A Senior (or would [i]senile[/i] be more appropriate) Vice President demanded write access to a database, and got it. For what he was trying to do, [b]he did not need it[/b] and "Mordac" tried to prevent it.

      "Mordac" was overruled by [b]Executive Damagement[/b].

      When the s--- hit the fan, "Mordac" decided it was time to get out and let Damagement deal with the flying mess. The expensive consultant brought in to sort out the mess questioned [b]why[/b] "Mordac" was overruled. After all was said and done, "Mordac" left "smelling like a rose"; and the SVP was made to [i]walk the plank[/i] (aka a very public firing).
  • If they built the app during work hours ... they already got compensated

    Just because a person did something outside of their job description doesn't mean that the company must give them something extra. If management wants to reward the person with a monetary award, that is something else.

    In a perfect world, people who deliver above & beyond should be getting an extra compensation from others who perform less work. But we are living in a world where people are expected to do more than the Obama level of work (ie: bare-minimum).
    • how much value do you think you are worth?

      Oh, you lost me when you had to play politics. People being lazy and work being devalued started long before 2009...
    • Exactly

      I am constantly building and refining our Apps, but that is indeed part of my job description.

      That being said, if I write a program at work, then the company has been paying me to make the program. If I make one outside of work hours (even if it would benefit the company), then the program is mine and I will charge for it, even to the company that I work for (although I will probably offer some sort of discount, especially considering the volume of machines).

      Now, if an employee has taken the time to learn a new skill set in the process of developing the app, then pay levels should be adjusted based upon the additional knowledge and increased value of the employee's skill set.
      • You think anyone can increase their pay just by learning new skills?

        My job pays me for doing a set job description. If I learn new skills, and there happens to be a job opening for someone with those skills, then I could apply and interview for it. The notion that the company should pay me extra for my initiative would get a lot of laughs...and maybe get me replaced by a drone who is content to work within the job description.

        This isn't to say we shouldn't learn new things...but we shouldn't expect the company to arbitrarily cough up more $$$ unless programs are in place to reward such things. Budgets tend to not like unanticipated increases, and in this case, the company can (and most often will) just say no.
  • These tools are usually non-portable

    The apps do the bare minimum that person needs and the person knows what the app cannot do and does not program to validate outside that boundry. As with most custom apps, the value resides with the person using it. Not a bad thing, but there are significant limits on what can be done with the work product. DSLs and macros are big in making a tool that can be customized for the user. This has been the case for a very long time (i.e. as much as the current batch of users think they are doing something new, it's really as old as the PC).
  • It's usually a necessity to do this.

    As someone in the IT trenches, running an automated testing system on 60 virtual machines on 12 VMWare servers, I can tell you that most vendor tools are either inadequate, or designed with an interface suitable for some alien species, but not the humans which make up my internal clients. Sometimes, you can download some freeware tool that does part of what you need, but for the most part, there's simply no alternative to customized software, at least, not if you want to get useful information out of the systems in a timeframe that matters.
  • Hey MccormickG Go push your spam somewhere else.

    If it was that good you would be making 20 grand a month yourself instead of trying to feed us that garbage. P*ss off you jerk.
    Rick Sos
  • Indeed, we've come full-circle

    At the dawn of "personal computing" (1978-198?) if someone in an organization needed something of an IT nature, they had to go to the IT department (wasn't called that yet back then) hat-in-hand and beg for it. In larger organizations, limited department budgets were usually dinged for it, and when all was said and done, the end users frequently did not get what they needed or asked for.

    Then came the "personal computer" and everything changed. People did not need access to people with access to mainframes anymore to get relatively simple computing tasks done. They could do them themselves, and for usually less money than their department would get billed for.

    It looks like we've come full circle; once again, the guardians of the processors are either getting in the way or not delivering what the worker bees need done, and they are finding other ways to do it. Once again, the IT gods are not pleased.
  • Why are you even asking?

    Anything any employee does to add value to a company should be compensated. Why is that even a question?
  • If the company is using it...

    ...absolutely. I've long thought we care too much about paper credentials and departmental lines and not enough about the quality of the output. This is a good example.
    John L. Ries