Holding Back the Tide

There’s an apocryphal story about King Canute (pictured) commanding the tide not to come in. Whether you ascribe to the version that it was an example of his arrogance or that it was his teaching the court that there were limits to royal authority, one thing is clear: he failed to stop the tide. In this failure, he achieved something unlike almost any other early English king: people on the internet recognize his name. To paraphrase Dilbert, in order to raise your visibility, screw up (in Canute’s case, royally).

One of the latest tides to roll in is Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), where employees use their personally owned devices (typically smart phones and tablets) for work. On NetworkComputing.com, in an article posted last week, author Joe Onisick referred to it as “Bring Your Own Disaster”. It doesn’t take much imagination to realize that this phenomena poses substantial risks to an organization. At the same time, there’s a risk to prohibiting the use of devices. As Onisick put it:

The word “no” used to be commonplace in the vocabulary of enterprise IT and the CIO/CTO. In the past, they would have easily handled this problem of BYOD, but now the end-user with the request is an equal or senior in the company.

It takes a lot of courage, and very little brains, to reply “denied” when the CEO comes looking for a way to get his new tablet on the network.

Ironically, I read that article on the same day that “The Department of No” was posted on TechRepublic. In that article, author Patrick Gray states:

There’s an exceptionally dangerous perception in many corporate IT departments, and it is one that threatens the very existence of an internal IT department: being perceived as the “Department of No.” This description applies to IT organizations where the unstated goal of IT is to insert itself into every technology-related discussion and highlight all the reasons why an initiative won’t work. Whether IT staff is noting that a technology is unproven, IT lacks sufficient resources, or some other potentially legitimate quip, eventually a perception grows that IT exists to point out every tiny cloud on an otherwise sunny day.

Saying “No” is a great way to start a guerilla movement. It worked for PCs, it worked for PC networking, it worked for the internet and will work with BYOD. When it’s easier to get forgiveness than permission, expect to be handing out a lot of pardons. Make no mistake, when the “offense” is profitable, then pardon will be forthcoming. “We can, here’s what it will cost and here’s the risks” is a better response in that the requester is transformed into a partner in the decision making process.

An IT operation that entertains ideas and provides useful guidance is more likely to be worked with than around. As Gray put it: “When IT starts becoming a trusted advisor and group that is looked to for answers, you’ll find yourself being invited to kickoff meetings rather than called two weeks before go-live.”

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5 thoughts on “Holding Back the Tide

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