Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Corporate IT maximum-security is damaging innovation

Exhibit A: A fellow I serve on a board with recently got a new job with a city government. I asked him for his updated contact information and he said, "I can't give out my work email address. They don't like anything that's not 100% city business done on their computers."

Exhibit B: another friend who works for a large telecom company tried to access my new site The Mistake Bank from work and found that corporate IT had blocked all social-networking sites.

Exhibit C (counter-example): Google's CIO, interviewed in today's Wall Street Journal, says the company's policy allows users to download their own software, supports multiple operating systems and uses public resources (like their own blogger.com) for work-related activities.

Andrew McAfee, for one, has often pointed the finger at internal IT shops for inhibiting the adoption of transformative Enterprise 2.0 technologies. Accurately so, in my opinion.

Why? Reasonable concerns regarding security risks and productivity impacts have spawned draconian, corporate-wide policies that essentially prevent employees from learning anything except that which is corporately-sanctioned.

A company worrying about people frittering away time on Facebook simply closes off access--and thereby prevents employees from keeping track of and developing valuable contacts that can help them deliver better results in their jobs.

Obsessing over use of work IT resources only for work--such as the concern about non-work-related emails my friend encountered--forgets that more and more work concerns things outside the company--learning about the issues facing customers and partners, researching competitors, understanding innovation. It also conveniently forgets that knowledge work frequently spills over the boundaries of the work day--thereby forcing some non-work activities into the hours of 8-5.

In sum, while this throttling of external IT resources for more and more companies may or may not make them more secure and productive--it certainly limits the horizons of employees, depriving them of oxygen needed for learning, innovative thinking, and being a whole person.

And is that a reasonable price to pay?

How enterprise 2.0 adds value to the connections between workers

(Photo: Alcatraz Island from amagill via Flickr Creative Commons)

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