By defining sets of outcomes, or measures, that everyone in IBM's software development community (and its HR reps) could agree on, the Cast system makes it possible to quantify performance. "Essentially it permitted our people to walk around with a scorecard. They could begin to earn points, based on the results or the value they were driving for the business," Howard says.
With IBM's new system, reputation becomes something tangible. "Somebody can enhance their reputation within the community based on results that they're delivering."
The program also helps to identify performance shortfalls and skills deficiencies. "We use it to identify where more training is needed," Howard says. Training budgets are tight, so "when you spend it, you've got to spend it really smartly, aim it at the right place."
It also enables developers to get on-the-spot insight into the quality of the work they're producing. With that kind of feedback, developers can make mid-course corrections that are necessary to succeed, Howard says.
So how do IBM's developers feel about the grading system?
Reactions are mixed, Howard says. Some developers embrace it aggressively -- especially those who tend to be data-driven, he says. Some are proactive about using the system to get feedback on their own work. Other times managers bring the data to a team member's attention.
"This is never intended to be a penalty conversation," Howard points out. "We're in a continuous learning environment, and if everybody feels safe around that point, it can be better integrated."
Overall, the system has proven to be very valuable, Howard says. "It has really wrapped our worldwide community together in a way that we didn't anticipate."
Read more about infrastructure management in Network World's Infrastructure Management section.