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

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?
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

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.

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