The War on Tasteless, Baseless Product Pitches

When something important happens, people will find a way to hear about it.

It seems that nothing—not even war—is sacred to IT vendors looking for a new hook on which to hang their products.

During the past few days, Ive received several product pitches that use the conflict with Iraq for leverage. These pitches, not surprisingly, include several from security firms warning about potential cyber attacks.

I guess I should be used to these types of sales pitches by now—after all, I heard much worse (and, by far, more sickening) pitches from companies in the wake of 9/11. Still, a few recent pitches really rubbed me the wrong way.

One that really got to me was from a vendor of Internet filtering software—you know, the applications you use to keep employees from viewing porn, playing games or doing other unproductive things.

The gist of the pitch was that the war will lead employees to constantly seek out news on the Internet, and that companies should be ready to control this to keep productivity up.

Now, this may have been especially troublesome to me because Im an avowed news junkie. But I think that any company that follows this line of thinking is not only setting itself up for even more lost productivity but is also being just plain stupid.

Yes, employees will be regularly looking to news sites to keep up to date with events. However, theyll be doing it from their desks, and not running out to a local bar or café to catch the news.

And, yes, sometimes events will be so big that employees will want to do more than just check the headlines. Theyll want to watch streaming video or some other high-bandwidth media.

If everyone is watching the same stream, this could become a network problem (a solution for which yet another vendor pitched). However, I still dont think blocking these streams is the answer.

Having worked in many news organizations, I recommend a strategy that may seem counterintuitive at first. I recommend setting aside a space where employees can gather to watch important events unfold. A TV in a break room is the best option, but even a central computer for watching a stream can be a good solution.

Some would say that Im recommending letting people leave their desks, which cant be good for productivity. But as everyone knows, when something important happens, people will find a way to hear about it. Better they do it in the office than come up with an excuse to go home.

If employees know they can keep up with events—instead of wondering whats going on out there—theyll be more comfortable and thus more productive.

Are these vendors right? Should businesses limit employee access to war news? Let me know at