Time For IT Guys To Unshackle Corporate Computers

from the can't-do-that dept

This one ought to infuriate some of the IT folks, but Farhad Manjoo, over at Slate, is making the case for why corporate IT folks should give up trying to control everyone's computers. He says it's silly for them to dictate which apps you can and cannot use, what websites you can and cannot visit and what mobile devices you can and cannot use. He argues that doing so only restricts employees from actually doing useful and innovative stuff and also can make employees significantly less productive.

The response from IT folks will always be about the cost of maintaining all of this -- noting (perhaps correctly) that any time there are any problems, people will call up IT folks who will have to try to service all sorts of things, rather than having a standard list. And, of course, they'll say that users are often dumb, and prone to doing things that put computers and networks at risk. Thus, locking stuff down isn't only cost effective, but it's prudent to protect the company.

In the end, though, if that prevents important work from getting done (or done quickly), that seems like a problem. In the past, we've pointed out study after study after study suggesting that those who are actually allowed to do personal surfing at work are happier and more productive. Manjoo makes that point as well, mentioning recent studies that have shown the same thing and suggesting that companies that trust their workers on these sorts of things tend to get much more out of those employees.

Filed Under: it, limitations, personal surfing, security


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  1. icon
    chris (profile), 27 Aug 2009 @ 9:56am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    You make it sound like if only IT would do their jobs right everything would be hunky dory.

    damn right. IT is two functions: protect the company's infrastructure AND help people use the company's infrastructure to do their jobs.

    if you can't help, then get out of the field because if your users can't do their jobs, then you aren't doing yours.

    user gets control (downloads latest malware from random emails/websites) IT gets to clean up the mess.

    that is what IT is *for*. fixing the stupid things that people do with computers, software and networks is your function.

    sometimes you can fix things with education, sometimes you can fix them with software tools, and sometimes you have to roll up your sleeves and do actual work.

    i'm sure the thought of sitting around doing nothing and letting restrictive policy and bureaucracy shield you from actual work is very appealing, but it never happens.

    The company I work for is pretty lax and I do end up dealing with a lot of spyware and viruses.

    and dealing with spyware and viruses is part of what the job entails. the job changed about 8 years ago with the advent of spyware and it's not going to change back.

    you used to be able to passively deal with most threats, but the bad guys move quickly now and are way more hands on nowadays, which means that you should be too.

    people make mistakes and things get hacked; it's a fact of life with computers.

    in the old days, viruses were a highly automated problem that you could use a highly automated solution to fix (AV software). an automated solution only works for old and well understood threats.

    today, malware is the product of dedicated teams of skilled and motivated individuals with tons of tools and tactics at their disposal. how do you deal with that? by using teams of skilled and motivated individuals to play defense.

    you are either skilled and motivated enough to make a difference, or you're not. if you're not then move out of the way and let someone else take a shot at it.

    the behavior of the user is key to preventing the malware issue and you just can't depend on users to always make the best decision.

    no it's not. the behavior of the user will not change, ever. when it comes to you vs. your users, you are outgunned and outnumbered and that will never change.

    the only thing that has the possibility of changing is your attitude about the user and your understanding of your responsibilities as an IT professional.

    if people cleaned up after themselves there wouldn't be janitors in this world. if you don't like cleaning up messes, then you shouldn't work as a janitor. IT is the same way. Technology progresses faster than the average worker can keep pace with, that's why companies hire IT people, to keep pace on behalf of their workers.

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