Balancing the Rights of the End User Against IT

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An IT Bill of Rights for End Users

Not too many centuries ago the idea that individuals had any rights that were inalienable was unimaginable. But over time, the idea that people enjoyed basic civil liberties not only took hold, it became the basis for transforming much of civilization as we know it.

The folks at Unisys are making a case that those basic rights should not be suspended simply because someone attached a personal device to a corporate network. In fact, Weston Morris, portfolio architect for end-user services for Unisys, says it's becoming incumbent on the IT organization to not only provide safe and secure access to those resources, but also to protect the privacy of people using the corporate network.

That may seem like heresy to a lot of IT people who have been taught that corporate resources are theirs to manage as they see fit, including being able to see and access all the data traveling across the network. Almost as if they were invoking divine rights bestowed on them by the board of directors, many IT leaders tend towards the imperious. Alas, end users being freedom-loving people, they do just about everything and anything to work around the restrictions imposed by IT under the banner of "the consumerization of IT." The end result is investments in shadow IT services are spiraling out of control in a way that now threatens the legitimacy of the internal IT organization.

History has shown how these conflicts play out time and again. Expressions of freedom are usually followed by brutal crackdowns that eventually wind up inciting people to overthrow an oppressive regime. Rather than allowing that to inevitably occur, Morris suggests that a more enlightened approach would be to actually conduct an audit of the unsanctioned devices and services that are being regularly used. Chances are that in many cases the IT organization could provide similar services or at the very least orchestrate the management of those services in a way that makes them ultimately less costly and more secure.

A copy of the "Rights of Man" may not be on every bedside table these days, but people have an innate sense of right and wrong. When IT policies prevent them from being more productive with their time; they will weigh the risk of violating those policies versus the potential gains. More and more it's becoming apparent that those gains outweigh the risks. As that behavior continues, IT organizations will have to bow to an inevitable reckoning, which with any luck going forward should function a lot more like a benevolent constitutional monarchy than a totalitarian regime.