19 Oct Social engineering – Coming to an IT ship near you?
Have you noticed recently the earnest discussions about a seemingly inalienable right to blog on company time and company topics? OK, maybe that overstates the argument a little bit, but the case in which Apple fired a couple of employees for their blogging activities on what Apple considered competitive secrets is only one of several that have generated furrowed brow discussion in various media.
Then in the not-quite-yet-news bin one recent morning, I found a bit that predicts IBM would shortly announce revisions to its workforce privacy policies to cover use of genetic information. In other news, I’ve heard of companies considering an iPod ban on company property partly for information security reasons, but also for paying-adequate-attention-to-one’s-surrounding reasons.
The responses in IT and HR shops across the country are opening up a new front in the IT/business alignment campaigns. Not so long ago, alignment used to mean the right business systems at the right time and at the right cost. If the supply chain, financial, and customer service applications were all in good working order and the relationships with their users were at least non-hostile, an IT manager could rock back on his or her heels a bit, maybe light up a smelly but fashionably rebellious cigar, and think well of his or her self and organization.
Such a reaction would, of course, bring out the behavior cops, because everybody knows you can’t smoke in the workplace anymore. If the IT manager has a moment during the mandatory workplace environmentals and smoking re-education, he or she might consider some of the implications of this experience. The smelly cigar is pretty easy to detect and the response pretty much a given. However, as we move beyond the basic business applications, much of the technology we’re putting in the hands of employees is creating poorly understood and inconsistently managed workforce capabilities. HR managers everywhere should feel a prickling sensation on the back of their necks, and IT needs to be ready to help out as the HR folks deal with the workplace changes being driven by new technology.
This kind of technology impact is usually incidental to the main objectives for a new system. You give the nation-wide sales force access to the Web so they can use that cool new Web-based order entry and tracking system. Do you care what they do with that access other than filling your company’s production pipeline? All your execs are issued hot new smart phones. Is IT responsible when the already highly limited medium of e-mail communications becomes even more constrained by the cryptic, miss-spelled, single sentence, sub-language that is an all to common result of thumb typing?
This new partnership with HR, like all of the IT/Business Alignment Dance, is going to require some new moves on the part of IT folks. It’s not enough to be simply providing the workforce management systems that HR and functional managers use. There’s much more to this than collecting, storing, and managing all the relevant and appropriate bits of data about the employee base. It’s usually more about behavior and perception than about rules and data. Whether it’s strategic or just operational, new technology is going to have some impact and probably have some impacts you didn’t anticipate.
Alignment isn’t just about common understanding and execution of well-articulated business objectives. Alignment is also about culture and behavior and even personalities, all areas that HR folks have a lot of time in the trenches and can be valuable partners. The challenge for us IT leaders is to bring something to that partnership that HR values. The good news is that current events are making that easier every day.
The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC. (WTN). WTN, LLC accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.