Who do you serve?

Information Technology groups frustrate the rest of the people in the organisation because they’re not seen as serving their needs.

That is a trite statement: the battle between users and technologists is an old one.

Still, what could you be doing differently if you wanted to fix it, at least for most people?

Open up: Employees are people, and they have lives. If you’re currently restricting access to social websites, or limiting Internet use in the office, or refusing to have WiFi in the building, or forcing people to be present in the office because you won’t give them remote access (or a laptop), stop.

The world won’t come to an end if someone tweets at 11:13, buys a book from Amazon at 14:23, works from the cafeteria at 9:43 on their laptop, or leaves at 16:00 to make sure they’re at their daughter’s little league practice and then gets back on the network for a hour’s work at 22:30.

Indeed, you may find it easier to get compliance with needed restrictions if you get rid of all the silly ones. You may also find you have fewer problems if you shift from having people use their (probably infected) home computers to VPN into the office and have a well-controlled laptop connecting up instead.

Provide enough: I have either worked in, or consulted to, seven different organisations that limited the amount of storage space a person could use. Every time they’d get the message about being out of space, you could hear the muttered curses for an hour or so, not to mention that it was the subject of complaint in every human interaction all day long.

Including, many times, the sound of employees on the phone with customers moaning about it. Boy, that’s good for the enterprise’s image, isn’t it?

Storage is dirt cheap these days. Provide enough. Oh, you’ll have someone hit the limits eventually — Google’s had a few (a very few) power users who’ve filled their Gmail storage faster than Google could provide more of it. But the average person thinks it’s unlimited — because if they never hit the limit, for them, it is.

Make the basics work: Remember that desktops, laptops, pads, tablets, and phones are consumer technologies. In enterprises we mostly force things onto servers, not onto devices — it makes it easier for us if we do that. Sure, the promise is that you can use any idle machine to access your desktop — but fonts will be missing, local apps will be gone, it’s not quite the same. Depending on how you built your network, a printer might be missing in action, or a server.

If you promise “use any free machine”, it has to work consistently across all of them. Otherwise, deal with device backup and support. Don’t be a hybrid that cripples both.

Have some sandbox tools available: A number of organisations I know have been suddenly shocked into finding that portions of the business have been using local apps (desktops converted to servers in their office), or software-as-a-service solutions, without their knowledge.

If you actually had some resources available for experiments, a lot less of this might happen. There’s no reason you can’t run your own “platform-as-a-service” private cloud, and have some open source or licensed software there ready for use.

Showing you’re open to initiative will tend to keep the initiatives within your grasp. Blocking all the avenues will send people outside.

These — and many other simple techniques — will defuse most of the toxic relationship, while making your life easier.

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About passionateobserver

I am a passionate observer of our society, the economy, and politics. Mostly I don't like much of what I see, so I write as a concerned citizen. To the fray, I bring a background in the philosophy of history, a lifetime's reading, a work history in information technology management, consulting and education.
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