Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Mini-rant: IT Departments as a barrier-- Why?

While at the session today, I heard a recurring theme. People needed tools that would help them circumvent their IT departments restrictions.

Why is this so?

I didn't hear this from one or two people, no, most of the audience was nodding when it was brought up that their IT department would not let them us IM software or would block software X or not install software Y on the server.

Why? Why stop your users from using new tools? Is your job of stifling their creativity and innovation that satisfying? Are you afraid that you won't have a job if they have these tools?

Is it security? Ok, lets argue that. If you are worried about security, do not, let me bold this, DO NOT put your computers/servers on the internet. So there is your security solution.

What does that do for usability? Well. Minus the Internet, you have essentially made your PCs useless. Don't believe me?

Ever had a power outage at home and lost your Internet? Sure. You still have your laptop, but how long do you spend on it when you know you can't use the Internet.

By denying requests your users make to have software X or Y, when they have legitimate needs, you are basically making their PCs useless to them. Oh sure, they can work on them, but you may as well take away their Internet while you're at it.

Yes, we need to protect our users. Believe me on that. I have been in IT long enough to have seen plenty of worms, hacks, pirate FTPs on unsecured servers, viruses, and scams. But that has not colored my view of enabling users; giving them the tools they want, to do their jobs in a way that works for them.

In my job as the web devloper at LCLS, I have given the users the ability to create and publish their own content. I was, and still am to some degree, responsible for much of the content publishing but that is happening less and less. In fact, one of my colleagues presented a tour of our website to our board at our November meeting. I was at the gym while she was putting on this presentation.

How could I do that? Easy. I gave them the tools, I helped them use those tools and they took off on their own.

I was an enabler.

Bragging on myself? Maybe a little, but here's my point.

Why are you not enabling your users? Let them try things, let them find things. While you are quashing worms or hunting spammers, let them try new software. What if they find something cool? It is not a threat to you, they want to help.

They want technology to work for them, not against them.

Think about that. And look at what you're doing and decide if you are helping your users or holding them back.


At 11/20/2005 9:47 PM, Anonymous rochelle said...

I'm standing up and applauding! I even threw in a hoot.

At 11/21/2005 2:35 PM, Anonymous Meredith said...

Bravo! I wish everyone in IT (and in libraries) thought the way you do. Some people in IT (and librarians too) have such fear about giving people the tools that will make them technologically independent. And the excuse is almost always "security", though I've never heard a real explanation of what specific security problem a suggested idea would cause. When I helped set some faculty members up with a wiki so that they could collaboratively develop policy documents (documents that will be public), I got a call from someone in IT chastizing me for not thinking about the security implications of what I did. Hmmm... and what are those now? ;)

At 11/21/2005 6:22 PM, Blogger 'brary web diva said...

Here's a theory... perhaps the "security" excuse isn't referring to network security but rather to the IT staff's job security? Blogs and wikis have opened up avenues that weren't available to the average non-programmer! I agree with Chris, show them what the tools can do, and let their creativity run wild!


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