I have recently changed jobs, working now for a major banking and finance group having moved from a major software player of the betting and gambling industry. In fact, most of my career has been around projects in the banking and finance sector. I will not write about the differences between industries in this post although I should because banks for example can learn a lot about how an IT department should be structured and working from smaller companies that thrive in other business sectors. Instead I am aiming to outline some major IT and business challenges that big corporations face.
Assumptions and arguments
My first assumption is that big companies with over 1000 employees do have processes that take a significant amount of time to complete and vary from standard recruitment to major software installations. The main argument behind all this time spent in these processes is either law restrictions or security. Law restrictions are beyond my understanding and I don’t intend to dismiss anything I do not understand. Security on the other hand, I know much about and I can understand many aspects of security threats that software industry face.
I do not dismiss security at all. It is a very serious argument and of course certain countermeasures must be taken. For example, Internet access should be going through proxy servers that utilize firewalls and certain types of files should be prohibited from download depending on the operating system the company uses. It is also a very good security advice to have a unique operating system within the company’s PCs. Certain file scanning software should be present to verify that the files transmitted within the internal network are not harmful and finally the user’s network id is something that should be used throughout the company’s internal processes (timesheet system, holiday, email, network transfers, instant messaging etc). Once a network id is provided, the user should be able to login to every system without separate effort.
The question is, what should be the extent of those countermeasures? To what extent the software that is used is up to date and truly serving its purpose? Given that now we are very much into 2013, with mobile services being extremely popular, the amount of people that depend on the Internet for their everyday tasks is already massive and growing. So based on my experience here are some of the challenges that companies face regarding IT.
(Some of) The Challenges
- IT people are there to provide a service.
It is very important for everyone in the business to realize that. People in IT are very much prohibited from providing the required service because of various obstacles. Examples often include: They are not allowed to install software on their machines. They are not allowed access to certain websites. Their actual computer may be running slowly or their operating system lacks certain benefits. What is the point of all those restrictions who are often imposed by the “rules” if the outcome is people not be able to do their work?
- IT people know about computers (presumably)
They do. Or at least companies have to assume that they do. If you hire a programmer, or analyst or whatever, you have to test them against standard computer-related tasks. What is the point of prohibiting them plugin a USB device to their machine for file transfers? What is the point of not allowing them to install software? Of course if Internet access is controlled there is a certain level of security. And to be honest, who will actually jeopardize their position and career by using the company’s network or equipment maliciously? A single error (which can of course be pinpointed if network id is present everywhere) may destroy someone’s career, it would be utterly stupid to make such an error.
- Laptops vs Desktops
I am not a big fan of a desktops anymore. In a world where everybody travels and have to work from a variety of locations, having a laptop (with a separate keyboard and a mouse if you want) is ideal. It makes moving desks a lot easier. You can be in a meeting with your whole workstation in front of you and perform at your best. Desktops need a great amount of maintenance, offer no portability and lets face it, the whole desktop retail sector is now just for gamers and maybe not even for them. I’m definitely open to discuss pros for desktops but at the moment as the nature of my job currently is, I don’t consider them as a viable solution.
The biggest problem. Ok I can understand the limitations on porn sites. Definitely, porn should be out of the question. Even certain forums or websites that offer copyright content illegally to the visitors. But why are the social media prohibited from viewing during work hours? Why are the legitimate download sites like CNET prohibited? Why block all possible sites that may offer downloading options? There is absolutely no excuse for that. An IT person needs tools for their work. They constantly visit blogs and other pages related to their work. They even use social media for work. And it is not that such people are computer illiterate. Companies should seriously reconsider the rules around blocking websites. Last but not least, blocking Google, Hotmail or Yahoo is pure stupidity.
This is in connection with the above that have been mentioned around Internet. If you do block Internet access to your employees at least offer them a free and open WiFi. Keep the WiFi separate from Intranet all employees are happy.
All that being said, companies have to come to terms with 2013. Technology is progressing and some major decisions about how to run IT must be taken. Computers were invented to make the running of a business faster and smoother, and not to inhibit its progress.