Tuesday, October 2, 2012

50 X and Productivity of Technology Workers

... a 50-fold increase in productivity. What CFO, CIO, or CEO would balk at that? Who would hesitate more than a moment to say, "Yes, I'll take it!"

Fifty-fold is the difference between the median programmer and the top 1%, as  measured by a company with the capability to do so. While not 50X but still astounding, 10X difference between the top and the bottom is widely accepted by anyone with professional software development experience. A 10X productivity difference was first noted by Fred P. Brooks in the '60's. A few summaries of the evidence have been documented by StackExchange, C2, and Construx.

One other useful factor to note: the pay-scale difference between the top and the bottom is 3X at best. And due to an inability to see the difference, many organizations pay the worst performers about the same as the best. Clearly, here's a spread here worth exploiting!

Yet, whether in cahoots with or under the thumb of the skills-blind CFO profession, IT shops mistakenly, dogmatically and aggressively seek the cheapest rate not the deepest skill. For example, the rate card submitted this month by a major system integrator to the feds had rates for local programmers competitive with Indian offshore firms. You have to ask, with new grads from the humanities making more money than that, just who is going to fill these positions?

This ass-backwards pattern of optimizing a part that is anti-correlated with the success of the whole is destructive to our credibility. Have we given up hope that it's possible to predictably deliver value? Is it any wonder that in-house IT shops are the laughing stock of the business and the rest of the tech industry?

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