I personally get allergic reactions when I experience in first person or hear about situations where the IT department create obstacles for employees, typically because it wants to enforce or prevent a specific kind of behaviour. All too often, these obstacles are created without any deeper understanding of what the employees need to be able to be productive and do their jobs in an efficient way. Here are some of the things that an IT department can do to provoke these allergic reactions:
- Not allowing employees to buy or download and install software on their computers
- Not allowing employees to set their own browser home page or not allowing multiple home pages in pages that support multiple tabs
- Not allowing browser plug-ins such as Flash
- Restricting access to information resources by default instead of only restricting access when it is really needed and having as default to let employees access information resources
- Not allowing instant messaging
- Not allowing external RSS feeds (simply because they are seen as something alien that the IT department cannot control)
Well, these are just a few examples and the list could be made much longer. I am sure that there are many and well motivated reasons for creating these kinds of obstacles, but I am also sure that these reasons rarely overshadow the reasons why the obstacles should NOT be created.
Typically, obstacles like these are created by an IT Department which has made security to its main concern and maybe even to its mission. It does not manage to balance the need for security with other business needs. Whatever the IT strategy might look like in detail, it cannot align very well with the business strategy.
The primary concern for the IT department should of course be to help employees to become more productive and do their jobs more efficiently, thereby contributing to the bottom line business results. By obstructing employees when they try to do their job, the IT department hurts the business instead of supporting it. By doing so they put their own existence at stake as employees will start to question the IT department, thereby alienating the IT Department even more and increasing the distance between it and the rest of the business. Employees will either accept the obstacles, or they will seek and find ways to sidestep them. If that becomes a common behaviour, there is a risk that not only the “bad” rules are broken but also the good ones. And that would definately be a dangerous road to travel.