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), 28 Aug 2009 @ 9:16am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    While true, that is a reactive response to the job responsibilities. Far better to be proactive and have the policies in place that limit the opportunities for people to do stupid things. Or would you disagree with the axiom "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure"

    that's great if what you want to prevent can actually be prevented, or that an ounce of prevention is a real substitute for a pound of cure. i have worked for large IT groups (big insulation manufacturer, large metropolitan hospital, large mortgage company, large publisher) and small startups, and i have worked outside of IT in software development shops and a lot of times, the ratio is something more like two pounds of prevention being worth a pound of cure.

    i have worked in draconian shops where no one is authorized to do anything, and i have worked in concierge type shops where the prevailing attitude is "do what you have to do and we will help you do it." the job is still the same: fix broken stuff, undo stupid mistakes, try to keep the ship from sinking, but one job produces a working relationship with users, and one produces and adversarial one.

    when i help people do their jobs, they are more inclined to help me do mine. when i prevent people from doing their jobs they do what they can to prevent me from doing mine. i guess the axiom would be "you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar".

    Agreed. Which is why the controls are put in place. I'd rather deal with them before they propagate on the network by limiting the opportunities to get on in the first place.

    that's great when the threats are highly automated and mostly static (like viruses were in the 90's) and you can just lock stuff down to keep it out. today's threats route around locks because they are being driven by teams of skilled and motivated professionals.

    so, if the locks aren't working, why punish users with them? if you are being actively thwarted by one group why take steps to alienate another?

    Not entirely true, but close enough. So again, since you have established that the users are the problem, why is it that the controls and restrictions should be relaxed?

    because the user isn't going to change. no one is going to stand up and say "i'm stupid and i take responsibility for that stupidity". no manager is ever going to say, "IT is right, i'll tell my people to stop doing that."

    so you are faced with a group of people who will not change how they operate (your users) and a group of people who will adapt to every change you make to protect your infrastructure, and you have management that will not spend the money to give you the tools and personnel you need to be productive. in that situation you need to make friends.

    if the primary responsibility is to ensure that the user base has the resources to do their job, we have to make sure that the same user base cannot engage in activities that may deny those resources to the other users.

    yes, you have to protect the company's infrastructure, but there is a universe of difference between taking reasonable measures to protect that infrastructure, and using the infrastructure as an excuse to be a petty tyrant.

    so as you lock things down for the greater good, ask yourself, am i doing this to protect everyone, or am i just being (or acting on the behalf of) a petty tyrant?

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