Understand Whats Being Used and Why

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2010-08-03 Print this article Print


However, it's also important to know why employees are bringing their gadgets to work. "When they're using consumer products during the day, why are they doing it?" asked Lori Wizdo, vice president of marketing at Knoa Software.

Wizdo cited as an example a company that created a knowledge base for its call center. "Agents would open the call center application knowledge base every day, but not use it," she said. "They went to the Internet instead."

Wizdo said the agents found that using an Internet search engine was easier and faster than using the knowledge base, so the company eliminated it. "They were able to understand what the agents were actually doing."

Using consumer electronics and other consumer products may mean that you're not providing the right tools to your users. "End users will seek out and find best solution," Wizdo said. "If all of the sales force is starting to use Hotmail, instead of the company e-mail system, it's a symptom of a problem," Wizdo said. "There's something wrong or inadequate about the tools you're giving the company."

According to Wizdo, one of the best ways to get a handle on how employees use consumer products is to monitor what they're doing. Wizdo said monitoring tools, such as those provided by her company, can give an important look into why employees aren't using the enterprise tools you gave them and instead are using products they bought themselves. "Are the end users using the tools you've given them to do the job?" Wizdo asked. "Are they using a different set that they've self-selected? What are the choices the employees have made? Do they have risks or costs, or should they be made best practice?"

In many cases, Wizdo said, employees bring their own tools to work because the ones selected by the company don't work well, or they may not work at all. "Why aren't they using the tools? Am I not using Outlook Web Mail because it takes 10 times as long as Hotmail? Can I remediate it? Is it creating behaviors you don't want? Are the end users using the technology well? Are they making errors, stumbling through?" Wizdo said the answers to these questions can tell a company whether it's made the right choices in the tools it provides, and whether the tools are working as they should.

But Wizdo also said companies should think twice before banning all such employee-provided solutions. "If you shut it all down, then you're shutting down innovation, too," she said. Wizdo pointed out that in many cases consumer tools are far ahead of their enterprise counterparts in terms of innovation. She suggested that with proper monitoring and controls, companies can benefit two ways: by letting employees pick up the costs of the tools they need, and by benefiting from the innovation they bring.

Neal of the Leading Edge Forum Executive Program suggested that rather than fighting against consumer technology, companies find a way to embrace it, and a way for employees to participate in making the new technologies work within the organization. He contended that companies need to work with employees to reach agreement on how new technology should be handled. To do this, he recommends two rules:

1.      Don't embarrass the company

2.      Your responsibility for data does not end; you have to make sure it doesn't get harmed.

"People are going to figure out how to do their job," Neal said. "They'll either do it with you or without you." He added that getting people to understand their responsibility for the company's information and getting their agreement to protect it will go a long way to easing the problems created by consumer technology.

Of course, that doesn't mean not having controls. You still need to insist that mobile devices can be wiped if lost, that data loaded on portable and mobile devices is encrypted and that you will monitor what is copied to those devices so you can maintain their compliance status. But rather than forcibly limiting what people can do with their personal devices, it makes a lot more sense to make it possible for people to incorporate the devices they want to use into their daily work lives. It saves the company money and, if done right, it won't hurt security.

Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazineÔÇÖs Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

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