IT versus Angry Birds: Time to stop being the pig

The productivity police role is wrong for IT and wrong for encouraging real productivity

As I rode to the airport this week, an interesting conversation sprung up on Twitter. It had started innocuously the night before about the Angry Birds game. The conversation quickly turned in the morning to the fact that one of the issues with games like Angry Birds is they're addictive and can really eat into productivity. One tweeter mentioned that IT was not only the security police but the productivity police as well.

This has been an ongoing theme the last few weeks, especially since Yahoo declared that working from home would no longer be allowed. This change in policy was ascribed to people not getting their work done while working remotely. I know of many companies that have banned all games and the like from corporate-provisioned devices, as well as social apps like Facebook and Twitter. Some places have tried to do the same with employee-owned devices, which is shocking in itself. You own the device, but you can't put the apps you'd like to on it? Seriously?

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The problem is that IT has become the productivity czar for the entire workforce. Not only is this misguided, it enforces the notion of IT as those who say no! It doesn't help that many times IT accepts the role -- some even relish the power that comes with it.

Although productivity policing isn't a technology issue, IT does have technology tools that make it easy to implement policies of device imprisonment. You can blacklist apps, sometimes by category and sometimes by app name (the harder way). You can also go with the much gentler and nicer-sounding approach of whitelisting apps. It's not any better, as it allows your users only the ability to install the apps that you deem safe or allowable. If they download anything not on the whitelist, they lose access to all corporate resources.

The real issue here is that we don't trust our workers.

There's nothing wrong with trying to protect your users from malicious apps, malware, and spyware. It's good practice. Trust me: Your users don't want their corporate or their personal data stolen and will be happy if you can help them out. Beyond that, what happened to personal responsibility? It needs to be part of the company's culture that people take responsibility for their own actions. Heck, it should be part of the person's own moral compass that they should take responsibility for their own actions.

It doesn't say much when you don't trust your own people to get their work done. I, like so many others, have been known to take a mental break and play a game of Sudoku, Temple Run, and even Angry Birds when I need a diversion at the office. I still do. Other times, I hop on Twitter and have short conversations with folks. Usually, I do this because I need a chance for my mind to wander. I've spent so long contemplating an issue that I can no longer see the forest for the trees. The break helps me to focus by letting my mind wander.

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