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12/24/2008
11:24 AM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans
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Gartner: IT Has 'No Moral Basis' To Monitor Facebook Usage

Does your IT team spend any time monitoring Facebook usage by employees? If so, you're just wasting your time and reinforcing the reputation that you and your team are busybodies, says Gartner analyst Brian Prentice. But his argument gets downright weird when he asserts such actions are an attempt "to deny people the right to reclaim a semblance of a personal life."

Does your IT team spend any time monitoring Facebook usage by employees? If so, you're just wasting your time and reinforcing the reputation that you and your team are busybodies, says Gartner analyst Brian Prentice. But his argument gets downright weird when he asserts such actions are an attempt "to deny people the right to reclaim a semblance of a personal life."For myself, I think employers should encourage employees to experiment with not just Facebook but all manner of Web 2.0 and other technologies for two big reasons: First, simply because those tools are becoming effective and often essential elements in establishing stronger connections with customers, prospects, partners, and opinion-shapers; and second, more and more customers and prospects are spending time within those social and professional networks, so shouldn't your employees be mingling there as well? Of course, proper guidelines must be set for such usage but that's hardly an issue reserved exclusively for online communities -- I mean, do you have a formal policy for quantity of daily bathroom visits?

In his blog post, which carries the headline "Butt Out IT!", Gartner's Prentice begins by making some fairly logical and reasoned arguments:

Secondly, how can you be certain that pure social interaction doesn't support a business objective? If Jenny from sales is "friending" her prospect list or posting some videos on the fun wall of her clients are you really, really sure you want to stop this type of activity?

But he and his argument jump the rails when he goes into a rant about the blurring of any distinction between a personal life and a work life and he lays the blame for that squarely on IT organizations. Now, wouldn't you think that the head of sales would have something to say about what tools the sales organization gets, and how those tools are to be used? Prentice, however, seems to think it's all due to the meddling and muddling twits in IT:

But last, and most definitely not least, have you ever stopped to ask yourself exactly whose time you think these people are "wasting?" Hands up -- who here puts in a strict 40-hour week? Anyone? Anyone?

I seriously doubt that many people are answering in the affirmative because for the vast majority of knowledge workers the 40-hour work week has gone the way of the employer-funded pension plan. In reality we're probably logging something closer to 50-60 hours a week. And who helped empower this reality? You did Mr./Ms. IT person!

Funny, but I can't seem to recall as much angst expressed by IT departments over the appropriation of employees' personal time when laptops, email systems, Blackberry's and VPNs were being deployed as I'm now hearing about the potential for Facebook to chew into work time.

Prentice's piece makes some interesting points and it's worth reading, but only as a conversation-starter and not as a policy guide because as the excerpts above indicate, his sense of what IT organizations are all about, and what they should or should not be focused upon, seems rather sketchy. And the Orwellian stuff about how technology and the people who deploy and manage it are somehow responsible for obliterating leisure time and freedom is somewhere between silly and paranoid.

So in closing let me say, with no intent of disrupting your professional/personal equilibrium, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

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