Yesterday I was having a chat with a good friend who was complaining about their IT and he asked, “seriously, I wonder how any work gets done”.
In all honesty, we’ve all had these whinges and complaints about our IT systems. Even I have been known to clench my fists to the heavens when a firewall has blocked me or I received a message from IT saying that a client is trying to send me a large file by email. It’s enough to roll your eyes and groan in desperation but we’ve all experienced the same frustrations. So what do you do?
Well, many people bypass IT. Out come their flash/stick drives, external hard drives, personal laptop, iPad, tablet, smartphone or email to their cloud accounts….
But that’s against our IT policy you exclaim!
Some months ago, I attended a well known conference in Melbourne where onstage sat a few senior leaders of organisations. One particular head of human resources for an organisation openly stated her frustration at not being able to access her work from home because remote access never worked and that she copied everything on her USB stick that she carried around everywhere or saved files to her Google Drive. She openly admitted that it wasn’t the ideal situation but the alternative was that she unable to complete any of her work at all. Her inability to work seamlessly because her own company systems prevented ease of access and flexibility frustrated her but also made her feel guilty about how she was using ways outside the enterprise systems just to continue working. The other senior leaders on stage nodded in agreement and the audience chuckled in understanding.
It’s a catch-22 situation.
I’ve worked in organisations where there were strict IT guidelines for use of systems and size limits for emails. In some organisations, they blocked USB access or we used dedicated computers for private and sensitive information. I understand that these may be issues may be highly concerning for IT departments in all organisations today as their own staff have multiple devices and can upload, download anything on memory drives or to the cloud. I don’t envy the position that they are in because they’re stuck between a rock and a hard place trying to prevent cyber crime and privacy breaches but I wonder about the following:
- What is the cost of productivity is when one considers that the company systems themselves are inadequate for people to do their own work anywhere, anytime?
- Does it make a mockery of the mandatory compliance courses that companies force their staff to undertake to make them aware of the IT Policies?
- What measures are put in place where the person is not detrimented in their performance review because they cannot genuinely complete their work because of a restriction that is beyond their control and adds multiple layers of time, complexity and resources in the decision making process?
I admit I don’t have the answers here, nor am I an IT expert at all but I can see the paradox. As many organisational enterprise IT systems improve hopefully, this issue will die down but in the meantime what do we do?
First of all, it’s critical that we do work within the IT guidelines of your company but there may be times when this is going to pose a problem and in those cases I’d say work with your IT department to come up with a solution.
For example, for the last couple of days, I have been teaching myself the ins and outs of Lync. I don’t have the application myself on the system but I have read and viewed some training videos and references to get an idea of the possibilities of using this Microsoft product for collaboration and communication. With screen sharing, access to Live Meeting functions, synchronisation with Skype and full directory for access to anyone in your company via phone, mobile or VOIP, it’s a brilliant tool to use in your work. Marry that up with the integration with Yammer so the social networking and your Office 365 products and Sharepoint, you have your own “communication and work portal” for you to connect with anyone in your company and work on documents together and collaborate on projects.
Where it falls down is where IT then start to ‘cherry pick’ the functions due to specific organisational needs, bandwidth or costs (the cynic in me thinks it’s mainly the latter).
So what do we do?
In the past, when I had to develop solutions for my clients, I had to make sure what systems were already in place and currently in use.
- What tools and technology were people using and why?
- Were these enterprise tools and technology or were they finding alternatives outside the enterprise?
- If the enterprise tool had possibilities for use but people weren’t using it, why was this so?
- Did they know it had this function?
- Was this function adequate for their needs?
- Did they not know how to use the function and therefore needed training or a performance support?
In my experience, working with IT in these situations was helpful. They were able to explain from their point of view the reasoning as to the restriction but at the same time, were also keen to explore alternatives because they valued being involved in the decision making process . They also wanted to know and use the alternatives you were exploring with vendors. In all cases, they could provide a technical eye for detail over the alternatives, provide their own suggestions that you may never have thought about or even and if you’re really lucky, consider you to be part of a pilot program to test out additional functionality of enterprise systems if all other factors such as budget, governance and stakeholder approvals were agreed.
If you’re lucky to have an IT department who is aligned to your business and have great relationships with their board and your business unit then you may not have the above issues but if you don’t, I’d still encourage to contact them. Their involvement would minimise risk for your organisation, save you money for your business unit especially when it comes to scrutinising vendor proposals and you’ll become more digitally literate in the process.
The irony isn’t lost on me that IT departments are grappling with the same issues that are facing Learning and Development nowadays when it comes to making contributions to organisational strategy and objectives.