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
    Coises (profile), 27 Aug 2009 @ 1:23pm

    Changing environment, changing expectations

    The thing is, the environment has changed and is changing. Twenty years ago, most people who used a computer in their job used one only at work — or, if they did have one at home, it was a completely different animal. It made just as much sense to users as to IT that workers should have access only to the specific functions required for their jobs. Who (aside from a criminal looking for opportunities) would want anything else?

    Day by day, more and more members of the workforce are already familiar with the same computer technologies they are using in their jobs. Telling them they can’t check their favorite social networking site or customize their desktop environment with the tools to which they are accustomed at home is as insulting and demeaning as telling an office worker twenty years ago that the phone on the desk could not be used to call home to find out what to pick up at the grocery or to resolve a banking problem during banking hours.

    This very real matter of morale competes with the problems of security and maintainability, which are also very real. If the article cited displays only one point of view, we should remember that this is how it will appear initially to most workers. It’s up to IT departments to strike a balance, constraining their users only where the benefits outweigh the costs in ease of use, rapid response to change, flexibility and morale. Some of that means explaining to users why the restrictions in place really are needed — and recognizing that a restriction that can’t be explained clearly might just be an easy way out instead of a real necessity. If all you can say is, “It’s because you’re stupid, stupid!”... that’s not a workable business attitude anywhere, even if your “customers” are others within the same company.

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