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Are Your Systems Running an Employee's Side Business?

Don Tennant

There's a lot of talk about the importance of innovation and creativity here at the Midmarket CIO Forum in Orlando, and it begs a question that's not being asked frequently enough: How do you make sure that innovative and creative spark ignites something that helps the company rather than hurts it?

 

During a panel discussion here that focused on the IT budget crunch and the relentless demand to do more with less, Rick Rhodes, chief deputy for information technologies in the Tax Collector's Office of Polk County, Fla., spoke about an entrepreneurial effort to bring in an additional revenue stream. His organization has hired itself out to the city of Lakeland, Fla., for example, to handle the city's utility bill payment processing. Rhodes is generating revenue for the county by tapping his excess computing resources and managing this public-sector IT operation like a business on the side.

 

It's a brilliant move, yet it raises the question of how many side businesses are operated out of IT departments to generate revenue that doesn't go to the company's bottom line. How many IT workers are making ends meet by doing side jobs using the company's computing resources?

 

An article in the March 2010 issue of HR Magazine cited a 2009 survey conducted by Opinion Research Corp., which found that 13 percent of U.S. employees had taken on second jobs as a result of the recession. What's unclear is how many of those second jobs are cases of moonlighting, and how many are promoted or even performed during the workday, concurrently with the first job, in a practice known as "daylighting."

 

The issue comes to the fore when, say, a systems administrator is nabbed for hosting an adult Web site from his company's data center, but any number of less egregious cases no doubt go undiscovered and unreported. The potential for such abuse, moreover, clearly isn't limited to the data center or server room. So much computing power lies in the hands of users throughout the company that an underground cottage industry could be operating just about anywhere on the company's premises.


 

Given the extreme economic difficulties a lot of people are facing right now, I have a hunch that the practice of daylighting is far more widespread than the relative silence on the topic would suggest. I would be eager to hear from anyone who might be able to share any observations or experiences. Have you seen this in your workplace?


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