Meeting Users Halfway Goes Long Way Toward Improving IT's Image

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A topic I revisit again and again on this blog is theincreasingly autonomous user of technology, and how such users may chafe at IT's efforts to control their tech environments.


Mike Schaffner, IT director for the Valve and Measurement Group of Cameron International, which makes products for the petroleum industry, hasan interesting take on this in his Beyond Blinking Lights and Acronyms blog.


Citing the oft-repeated advice for CIOs to "sell" IT's transformative capabilities to the rest of the company, he shares his concern that such efforts are undermined by IT putting limits on tech use. The examples he offers include locking down PCs and limiting the amount of e-mail inbox storage. He writes:

We don't threaten our customers with legal action if they don't use our Web site properly. Wal-Mart doesn't have the greeter threaten every customer when they walk in with jail time if they shoplift. Why treat your internal customers differently, especially if the only outcome is ill will?

And don't try to pass the buck to company lawyers, writes Schaffner. They may offer recommendations, but the CIO decides whether to sign off on them. Schaffner doesn't suggest dropping all controls and adopting an "anything goes" approach. Instead, he offers three pieces of smart advice:

  • Explain to users why you are limiting the use of technology. (And make sure you have good reasons, I'd add.) People tend to be more accepting of limits if they understand the thinking behind them.
  • Train users in alternative ways to use IT. So if you limit the size of e-mail inboxes, make sure you show users how to optimize the space they have.
  • Make sure tech support is responsive to business needs. So if you block access to Web sites that prove useful, make sure you quickly "unlock" them rather than handling as a routine trouble ticket.