Digital Subversives

Digital Subversives

Employees just suck, don't they? It's bad enough that they don't read the documentation, follow the rules or make even a minimal effort to get the most they can out of internal IT systems

Are employees compromising security by bringing consumer tech into the enterprise? Perhaps, but if you use too heavy a hand to stop them, you'll be fighting a losing battle

"Power users" can be demanding pains in the butt. And tech-savvy managers may be relentless thorns in your side. But the employees with the greatest potential to make your enterprise life a seething hell of killer viruses, data loss, network disruptions, compromised security and contempt for your professional competence are the "ordinary" folks who think their technologies belong on your network.

They care not that Skype is a terrific vector for viruses or that a MySpace account will prove to be an information sieve or that making the company's uber-customized "sales-force automation" system run on their BlackBerrys will take months of programming.

They don't think twice about using 1-gig memory sticks to back up customer data and then losing the sticks on a trip. Maybe, in the interests of good supplier or customer relationships they'll put a behind-the-firewall link on to help answer a question or two - and then call your people screaming that you've made them look bad because it's inaccessible.

Employees just suck, don't they? It's bad enough that they don't read the documentation, follow the rules or make even a minimal effort to get the most they can out of internal IT systems. Now they're bringing every consumer electronics gizmo they've purchased, Web site they've accessed and IM account they've set up into the enterprise, and they expect you to support them. Just what do they think they're doing?

The answer to that question is the reason the surging challenge of consumer technologies will get worse before it gets better and why the problem can - at best - be managed and not solved.

An emerging majority of employees honestly believe that the technology they use outside the organization is superior to the technology they use inside the enterprise. They feel they're getting a swifter and more valuable user experience interacting with eBay than with your supply chain software; Google's better than your DBMS; Skype beats your phone system; and AOL wins because you don't allow IM or "buddy lists".

What's more, the savvier employees with teenagers look at MySpace and Facebook and wonder why IT isn't adapting those kinds of social networking genres for project management and hiring systems. They wonder why they get better, faster, cheaper or free software services outside the firewall. They think you're too slow, cautious, unmotivated. They think you suck. If they like you, they simply think you're too busy.

So that's their excuse for bringing external technologies and services into the enterprise: You can't and/or you won't.

Further complicating this dynamic is the reality that most of your better employees now take their work home and on the road. Companies have (successfully) used IT to both blur and dissolve the lines between the office and the home. Well, two can play at that game. Employees once dependent on enterprise software to finish a project over the weekend now want to be able to integrate software and services from Web sites you might not like or trust. Too bad for you.

Historically, IT's response to technical insubordination is prohibition: Employees are forbidden from using Skype, IM, personal e-mail accounts and so on. I remember that in the 1980s, more than a few Fortune 500 IT shops didn't allow personal computers. In the 1990s, corporate IT tried to stamp out unauthorized local networks that various workgroups had set up for themselves because IT hadn't got around to supporting them. No wonder IT got a reputation as "user hostile".

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