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
    Cody Jackson (profile), 27 Aug 2009 @ 8:01pm

    Make users responsible for their own systems

    Several years ago there was a comment on Slashdot. I wish I could find it, because it was something I had been thinking about for a while but was glad to see a real world case.

    The commenter worked for a company that required a certain level of computer savvy to get the job. This is because they were looking to lower IT support costs. Each applicant had to prove a certain level of competence by building a computer and installing the OS; if the applicant was hired, the computer they built became his office system.

    Employees had the opportunity to take the company supplied parts or they could purchase their own parts for the computers. They could also choose which OS they wanted to use. Employees who weren't technical, e.g. admin assistants or other "office" type people, could either build their own systems or use a Mac purchased by the company.

    The benefits of this were significant. Since Linux, Windows, and OS X were used, a single virus or other malware infection couldn't take down the entire company. Because each work computer was an employee's "own", they were expected to maintain them; no IT support was given except to people who chose the standard corporate computer (Macs). If a virus was found on the network, the person responsible for it was canned because everyone was responsible for their systems and behavior.

    Since all the tech workers had a minimum level of computer knowledge, they were expected to know about computer security and maintenance. IT costs were nearly non-existent because people maintained their own systems. Even if a problem did occur in the office, there were many people who could help out, reducing the number of dedicated IT employees. And because Windows wasn't the standard OS, there were fewer problems with malware and support issues.

    If I'm ever in a position to make IT policies, this is almost exactly what I will advocate implementing.

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