F*ck You. Pay Me.

I really enjoyed Mike Monteiro’s talk, “F*ck you. Pay me.” and it curiously fits into my current writing jag: finding value in your “cost centers”.

The curse of IT is that it is a cost center, not a profit center. This is true even for an internet company like Amazon – the profit is in selling those damn books not in running the web site (OK, not true anymore, with Amazon Web Services, Amazon is actually monetizing IT directly now, but cut me some slack here).

As a cost center, the only way IT can directly contribute to the bottom line is to reduce costs. And if IT is managed in a silo, separate from line business (or worse, outsourced), things can go seriously sideways. Reduced services and responsiveness from IT can reduce effectiveness or hamstring line business areas that do generate profits. In chemistry terms, IT is not the reactant, it’s the catalyst, but it’s still critical to generating the reaction!

What does this have to do with Mike’s profane little talk? One of his main points is that, in running his creative business, his legal advisor has been absolutely critical. As Mike says (pointing to his lawyer) “this guy makes me money”. Well, no, taking the narrow view, the lawyer only ever receives money, he never gives it back. But in the global view, looking at all the money the company didn’t lose due to bad contracts, or due to broken customer relationships, or due to misunderstandings of obligation, Mike’s lawyer has generated far more value than he has billed out. He’s a quiet profit center.

If you treat it right, IT can do that too.