In economics, there is something called “the tragedy of the commons”.
The tragedy of the commons is an economic problem in which every individual has an incentive to consume a resource at the expense of every other individual with no way to exclude anyone from consuming. It results in overconsumption, underinvestment, and ultimately depletion of the resource. As the demand for the resource overwhelms the supply, every individual who consumes an additional unit directly harms others who can no longer enjoy the benefits. Generally, the resource of interest is easily available to all individuals; the tragedy of the commons occurs when individuals neglect the well-being of society in the pursuit of personal gain.
This is like a public area with grass while everyone has goats, so they take their goats to graze there. There’s only a limited amount of grass but it costs nothing to have the goats graze so everyone leaves their goats to eat as much as they want.
Eventually, all the grass gets consumed at a rate that it’s not replenished and the resources at the park get depleted.
This also happens for taxpayer purchased items too, such as highways.
Now the best way to address this is to control or regulate access to the public area through placing limits to the amount of grass consumed, or by charging for access. This way people make more rational decisions and are less likely to overconsume.
The reason I bring this up is that I see this happening where I work in the IT (Information Technology) department. Here, IT is a shared service being provided to the organisation, by and large, without cost. While the business units may pay for licences and initial hardware purchases, labour is free, and oftentimes, upgrades as well.
When IT, or any shared department, is structured this way, without a cost for utilisation, then people will send any request for IT to handle, even if the request is trivial. No other options would be considered, including options to help themselves.
The result is overextended workers, slipping projects and crumbling infrastructure. Preventative maintenance slips through the cracks, and security holes begin to appear.
And IT becomes the scapegoat for things that go wrong.
So ICT tries to regulate the flow, implementing bureaucracy such as the Change Advisory Board (CAB) and Change Request Forms (CRF). But because there is still no cost to making requests, the number of changes outstanding becomes unwieldy.
That’s why chargebacks usually come into the mix.
With chargebacks, business units are charged by the internal IT department for the IT services, goods or labour used, and no longer will IT absorb that cost. Many business units baulk at such suggestions, but this has real benefits.
- Units will be better able to see the costs associated with IT and make IT more transparent.
- The Units become more accountable for their spending and are incentivised to work more efficiently.
- The management of IT costs is now shared by IT and the business units, and not just IT, meaning that there is more a feeling of shared responsibility.
- Units will be more cognizant of what they are using IT for, resulting in activities that provide more value.
- IT will have to show its value to the organisations and provide real value for the business units.
- The value of IT in the organisation will increase.
In the end, it would also mean that IT workers will no longer be overextended, projects can get back on track, and focus can be placed on creating some real innovating solutions.
Win-Win for everyone.
It’s time to stop treating IT as a common resource and start paying it’s worth.