A 12 March post on Boing Boing, the most-read English language blog in the world, revisits a topic of considerable personal interest. Speculative fiction writer and star blogger Cory Doctorow has an article in the latest Harvard Business Review (‘The High Priests of IT — And the Heretics’) about the ongoing war between corporate IT and employees, relating to IT’s attempts to lock down desktops, supposedly to insure against security breaches.
This article threatens to become almost as infamous and controversial as Nicholas G Carr’s notorious ‘IT doesn’t matter’ argument, and you can tell from the number and the length of the comments attached to the blog post – 112 at the last count – that it’s already evoking strong reactions.
Doctorow quotes from his article: “The fact is that the most dreadful violators of corporate policy — the ones getting that critical file to a supplier using Gmail because the corporate mail won’t allow the attachment, the ones using IM to contact a vacationing colleague to find out how to handle a sticky situation, the incorrigible Twitterer who wants to sign up all his colleagues as followers through the work day — are also the most enthusiastic users of technology, the ones most apt to come up with the next out-of-left-field efficiency for the firm.”
Of course, among the comments there are many valid counter-arguments from IT experts defending their position as protectors of the corporate infrastructure and the obligation, as “Carb” comments, to work “within corporate, legal and technical boundaries”.
“In my personal experience of corporate workplaces, I’ve found that 25 percent of the employees do 75 percent of the work,” “Joneric” chimes in. “Draconian IT policies are put in place for the 75 percent that goof-off most of the day. If someone that works hard wants a tool that will increase their productivity, they will get the tool if they ask for it and explain why it’s needed. These same 75 percent have total freedom with their computers at home and that’s why there are so many botnets available to purchase for malicious purposes.”
Yet, the vast majority of the users commenting appear to have little sympathy for the ‘conservative’ IT standpoint. They view themselves being ‘locked out’ of technology because IT is more interested in trying to make life easier for itself, rather than because they’re trying to help them do their jobs. One of the comments links to a Dilbert strip with Mordac, the Preventer of Information Services, saying: “Security is more important than usability”. I don’t know about you, but I find myself smiling in recognition.
The real message for everyone working in IT – whether in a corporate support function or anywhere in the reseller channel – is that users probably care about usability more than you think. They want to get their job done. They want IT to be an enabler, not a preventer. They don’t necessarily want to get creative about what’s on their desktop. They just want what’s on their desktop to work most of the time. They want the company to be secure, but they don’t want the applications on their work PC to be locked down any more than those on their PC at home are.
So whether you’re providing support and responding to help desk calls, or you’re talking to customers who do, you might bear in mind that the users are the only reason you have a job, not the other way round.
Now, if you’re a Reseller News reader and a reseller – and the latter is not a foregone conclusion – you may have been contacted recently by RN editorial staff asking if you’d be interested in becoming a member of our Editorial Advisory Board. The reason for this new initiative is that we want to enable the readers of Reseller News to communicate their ideas directly with the people making it. So we’re looking for resellers to provide regular feedback on the contents of the print publication and website.
To qualify, you have to be a genuine reseller; preferably a small business owner, and you’ll be willing to spare enough time every couple of weeks to read the issue and fax or email us your evaluation.
We’ll be hoping, too, that you’ll tell us what else you’d like to see in print, what you’d like to change about the publication and where you go for the latest industry news.
If you’re a reseller who hasn’t yet had the call, don’t despair; you can express interest here, by emailing me: firstname.lastname@example.org.