Top Coder works with a virtual community of 200,000 independent software developers to create software for the clients of the company / community (clients see it as a company, developers see it as a community).
The developers are a diverse group of individuals who want affinity in an area that they are interested in. The diversity extends to their contribution – what they put in, and also what they take out.
So for example, project management is a community function, not a business function. It is performed by one set of community members, whose output is the input for other members.
The arrangement works because TopCoder:
- Doesn’t seek to control the community members. What governs their interactions are the company’s values, not control.
- Uses a very flexible approach to reward in which different compensation models are used for different types of work. For many developers, winning a programming tournament may count for more than payment for the program that they’ve written. And TopCoder recognises that many members join and stay part of the community just to be part of the community – to enable them to have discussions with other community members about community issues.
My main learning: the case study demonstrates how ‘HR’ will have to change as organisations increasingly get work done by people outside the organisation: you can’t necessarily treat people providing external human capital in the same way that you do people on the inside.
(To add further complexity to this, Hughes suggests TopCoder provides an example of the way organisations are becoming increasingly blurred – people won’t necessarily be inside or outside an organisation except at a very abstract level.)