Good Intentions. Backwards Execution.

It seems that a lot of the freelance work I do is for people who work at a company whose IT departments get to dictate how employees do their jobs. During a recent email exchange, I was asked if it would be possible to set up WordPress on a company's local network in such a way that it was accessible inside the company, but not to the public Internet. I responded with my standard "Of course it's possible; it's just software!", and the client — a middle manager in a medium-sized business — was summarily surprised. She had been asking her IT department for years to have a WordPress installation inside the company, and had been summarily rejected without being given any reason beyond "it's not secure." If that's they're opinion, that's fine, but I find this common pattern a little concerning. At the end of the day, it shouldn't be the job of IT to tell employees of a company how to do their job, but to instead find ways to support the goals people are trying to achieve.

Something I Said to a Client In an Email

If WordPress is really so insecure that it cannot be used on a local Intranet, then how about a different blogging or CMS system? Why shut a person down — especially a manager — when they are asking for something that will make their job easier or more efficient? It boggles the mind.

I've had discussions with people who work in IT at various organizations around the planet, and the answer is almost always the same. "We are expected to keep the company's data safe, so we implement lots of rules on how systems can be used."

What a lazy approach to a serious concern. Yes, it's absolutely important that there are no data leaks or other problems that could affect the company's bottom line or put their customers at risk. This is IT's top priority. But this shouldn't come at the expense of getting work done. By simply asking a person "Why?" 5 times would be enough to better understand what the fundamental goal is, which may be sufficient to offer some other tool or mechanism. If something is truly impossible, then open communication should be used to ensure everybody understands why something is a bad idea. If a person asks for a list of all customers and their email addresses in an Excel file to store on a USB key to bring with them on a business trip, the answer should be a solid "no" with a clear explanation. Something like:

"I'd love to help you solve whatever problem you've got, but putting that much data on a USB key — even encrypted — opens the company up to too much risk. What would happen if the USB key was stolen or lost? I'm sorry. It's just not possible. Tell you what, though, why do you need this information? Maybe there's something else we can do to help you …"

There are a lot of great people who work in IT that do try to help their colleagues solve problems. I work and have worked with many. That said, it seems a disproportionate number of surly tech goofballs — for lack of a better description — seem hellbent on making sure people suffer while they play the role of king in their imaginary fiefdoms. Technology opens the doors to a lot of wonderful things. Hopefully younger IT staff will replace the angry old guard who has stood in the way of progress for so long before it's too late.