If there’s a buzzword for here at the first CITE Conference, it would have to be trust. Virtually every discussion I’ve had over the past two days has boiled down to the level of trust between IT and users.
Trust may be the foundation of all healthy human relationships, but it isn’t something that comes easily to IT professionals in the workplace. That’s the underlying tension that IT staffers have when it comes to the consumerization of IT. It isn’t about devices or public cloud services. It’s about trusting the users that you support.
Ask anyone who’s spent time in the IT field over the past two decades and they’ll tell you that most IT policies are based around an inherent distrust of users. This mindset isn’t suggesting that users are overwhelmingly malicious. Malicious users are a very small fraction of a percent of the staff at most companies. Instead, this view is that users don’t understand the risks that technology poses – both in terms of security and in terms of device reliability.
I’ve personally drilled this attitude into novice IT employees fresh out of college. It has been the lay of the land for years… decades even.
But those days are behind us. Most users today are aware about risks and about what can happen to brick their iPhones or iPads or Android phones. They also know that some of the apps available for these devices outperform anything their IT departments are capable of delivering.
In many organizations, however, these users don’t trust IT. They expect that if they suggest a given app or a given device to their IT managers that it will be blocked or removed in some fashion. They don’t expect IT to promote what may be a great solution for them.
This hostile relationship develops from a complete lack of trust. And that’s no better for a business than it is for a married couple. It’s detrimental to everyone involved.
While old guard IT ideas can continue to be applied, they’re going to grow less and less effective. Users will find ways around any technical block that IT puts in place. The result will be that IT will continue to become less relevant to the users and organizations that they’re supposed to serve. Security will go completely out the window.
What’s the solution? Trust and education.
A relationship needs to be cultivated between IT departments and their users. IT needs to move away from totalitarian-style blocking and dictating of the technology in the workplace. IT professionals need to engage users – ask them what tools they use or need. They need to create a dialog that allows them to understand user needs. The flip side of that dialog can be about security, privacy, regulatory needs – about all the things that IT has always been concerned about. That dialog can become a social contract or even an actual contract (a.k.a. an acceptable use policy).
But this process begins with trust – real trust and engagement and education and understanding. At the end of the day, IT professionals need to realize that their jobs are really about their relationship to other people and not their relationship to technologies.