Sunday, June 22, 2008

Net Parenting Destroys Productivity

There are two fundamental schools of thought for enterprise IT management. Having experienced both extremes I am convinced that most CIOs are the victim of their own well-intended efforts to enforce boundaries. It is the natural inclination of most IT professionals to place boundaries around what software and and network resources are available. This is a behavior born of necessity, everyone can't have access to everything and the truth of the matter is that it's a matter of self preservation for IT. While acnowledging a need for boundries, productivity is born from creativity and rapid access to content and data. At some point if we take the control approach to an extreme the tools intended to empower users become the shakles that bind them.

I was recently helping in a small organization and during a meeting the presenter approached me to see if someone could play a specific piece of bumper music as an intro. When I inquired about that and suggested we just download the song from iTunes I was informed that would not work because iTunes was blocked from access on the network. Why? The answer I got from the system admin who made the decision was "we can't let people just be downloading music here at the office." "Really", I reply, "why not?" I get a blank stare... I must be stupid, didn't I know music could destroy the business....

Opening up the toolbox to users so they can do things we didn't anticipate them doing is going to clutter up machines and make more work for IT to clean up right? Probably so but then again, maybe it's time for the tail to stop wagging the dog. There are smart ways to establish boundries. We don't have to enforce all boundries with technologies. People are amazingly adept at learning, let's start teaching them how to use technology in a safe and productive way instead of treating them like idiots. If we find we have technology idiots on staff who can't learn then perhaps we can create a dunse community and send them to it.

Here are three ways small to medium sized orgs can reduce IT cost/effort and headache:

1. Outsource your net-nanny activities to It's free, effective and they will do a lot better job of policing the "bad" sites than you ever could.

2. Move your internal mail server and network storage servers to Google Apps for Business and Jungle Disk. It's the 21st century, quit hosting your mail and storage locally, it's a headache and your staff will never be as good as the pro's at the hosted services.

3. Take the dollars saved and buy Macs. Your employees will love you and your PC support cost savings will more than offset the difference in price.

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