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
    BobinBaltimore (profile), 27 Aug 2009 @ 5:31am


    The most surprising thing in the article is the fact that Slate, a news and opinion operation, is content-restricted in terms of web surfing. That is truly silly and can obviously impact their news gathering and fact checking. But opening up the client image to be modified at-will by end users is a whole other matter.

    You're mixing two things, here, Mike, as is the Slate author: content filtering and client management. Content filtering (aside from where kids are involved) is relatively stupid and I agree that it often does little to further the cause of the business. A little bit of personal surfing is fine, though the cost of bandwidth (and please don't just consider carrier costs, but all the components that protect and support that path to the internet) can be material and is not to be brushed off as trivial.

    Another matter entirely is how client desktops and laptops are managed. It is certainly not just a cost consideration, but security and protection of corporate information assets. Anyone who thinks this is minor has never sweated 24 hours trying to get a multi-billion dollar company's network to settle back down after some jackass installed trojan-carrying software in the form of a stupid photo retouch application. Eh hem. Unmanaged and user-managed systems can carry real risks for business, especially at scale, which can wipe out completely any incidental benefits found along the way.

    That said, when the company's business demands that kind of flexibility (say, a news or consumer service organization that needs to test new software or consumer electronics devices and review them, etc) there are plenty of ways around the challenge, whether it be in the form of physical or virtual labs, parallel secured and unsecured networks, etc. I agree that IT policy can't run counter to the aim of the business. But, typically, end user griping doesn't factor in the dim, unglamorous, cave-dwelling reality of keeping networks and systems up, secure and performing well on a 24x7 basis.

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