Don't just say no

Before you ban all employee software installs, ask yourself first whether that will ultimately hurt the company

MANAGEMENTSPEAK: You are empowered to take reasonable risk in your job to fulfill your responsibilities.

TRANSLATION: Reasonable risk is anything that doesn't impact my or my team's productivity.

-- This week's contributor decided that providing his name would represent an unreasonable risk.

I'M OFFERING YOU a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to become a charter member of the Value Prevention Society. To qualify for VPS membership, just include, with your check for $950, a notarized copy of the page in your IT procedure manual that specifies total desktop lockdown.

VPS members allow nothing but Microsoft Office and whatever enterprise application client-side software is required for each individual's job. These are, after all, the company's PCs, not the employees', and if individual employees install anything else it could destabilize their PCs, kill the company in a Software Publishers Association (SPA) audit, and destroy all life on this planet. Besides, all employees want to do is to install games and screen savers, and these have no place on a corporate PC anyway.

OK, I made the destroy-all-life bit up, but the rest is standard fare among the VPS crowd. And it's a pile of baloney. Sliced thinly. Starting with the bit about a bad piece of software destabilizing PCs. Sure, a sufficiently bad application can destabilize any version of Windows now shipping. So only provide help for IT-approved software, and when there's a problem, only commit to restoring a standard image and the My Documents folder. Because this situation will occur on about 0.2 percent of your company's desktops annually, the impact on IT's workload will be pretty small.

How about those SPA audits, though? That's a tough one. OK, I lied, it isn't. Just require users to send you a scanned image of the installation disk for self-installed software, along with documentation of his or her manager's approval. There's plenty of software that can automatically inventory software to help you monitor conformance with this policy.

The most noxious argument, though, is that it's the company's PC. Of course it is. Which means it isn't IT's PC. IT has no business preventing other parts of the company from taking maximum advantage of information technology. Games? If you think you're paid to prevent employees from playing games, you should make decks of cards illegal too. Otherwise, let business managers do their jobs while you get back to yours.

For the most part, employees install software to make them more effective. When you prevent them from doing so, you might cut IT's costs just a bit, but you're reducing the benefits of information technology by a lot more.

If you think that's a good trade-off, welcome to the VPS. We're proud to have you as a member.

Copyright © 2003 IDG Communications, Inc.

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