Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Information Technology in the Office: Easing Into the 21st Century

"It's a Free Country..."
"...So why can't I pick the technology I use in the office?"
The Wall Street Journal (November 15, 2009)

"At the office, you've got a sluggish computer running aging software, and the email system routinely badgers you to delete messages after you blow through the storage limits set by your IT department. Searching your company's internal Web site feels like being teleported back to the pre-Google era of irrelevant search results.

"At home, though, you zip into the 21st century. You've got a slick, late-model computer and an email account with seemingly inexhaustible storage space. And while Web search engines don't always figure out exactly what you're looking for, they're practically clairvoyant compared with your company intranet.

"This is the double life many people lead: yesterday's technology for work, today's technology for everything else. The past decade has brought awesome innovations to the marketplace—Internet search, the iPhone, Twitter and so on—but consumers, not companies, embrace them first and with the most gusto...."

The author discusses the sort of antique technology and control-freak style of IT management that many workers deal with. And, some of the reasons it was that way. (And no, it's not because Management lacks opposable thumbs.)

I think the problem goes beyond Management dragging productivity down by forcing tech-savvy workers to use archaic technology at the office. There's the matter of morale and respect for the supervisors.

"...When they get fed up with work technologies, employees often become digital rogues, finding sneaky ways to use better tools that aren't sanctioned by the IT department...."

I don't think it's a good idea to set up a situation where subordinates have good reason to hold their supervisors and management in contempt, and defy company rules when that's the only way to get the work done.

I've worked in a setting where key people seemed uncomfortable with any information technology more advanced than an electric typewriter. Their preferred information storage and retrieval technology was paper and pencil. In my darker moments, I was surprised that they didn't complain about ballpoint pens and felt-tip markers.

This article is a pretty good discussion of information technology in the workplace, what can (and has) been done to improve the situation: and how Management can ease into the 21st century and let their employees get the job done - without giving up that sense of control.

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