Down To Business: The Age Of The Control Freak - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

IoT
IoT
Business & Finance
Commentary
6/30/2006
06:35 PM
Rob Preston
Rob Preston
Commentary
Connect Directly
LinkedIn
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Down To Business: The Age Of The Control Freak

Control freaks call the shots today. But before you start howling about Big Brother gone bonkers, look in the mirror.

The control freaks are calling the shots in corporate America. Chief compliance and human-resources officers regulate what we ask, collect, and communicate. Chief information officers control what we download, access, use, and share. Chief marketing officers script out what we say to the media, customers, and partners. Chief executive officers keep an eye on all the chiefs.

In this corporate environment, decisions made outside the box are viewed with skepticism, even fear. Those processes that can't be counted, measured, compartmentalized, tracked, analyzed, automated, or secured very easily are just too unwieldy for comfort. Gut decisions are for old-timers. The young turks view management as a hard science.

The control freaks are armed with the latest information technologies: radio-frequency identification systems to keep tabs on shipments, inventory levels, and even people; Web site monitoring software to track where employees are going and what they're doing online; keystroke-measurement tools to rate the productivity of call center agents and other workers; data mining algorithms to identify customer needs and anticipate dodgy behavior; dashboards to show business performance in near real time; E-mail monitoring software to identify potentially illegal and noncompliant activity. The arsenal is fully stocked.

Blame the lawmakers and other committees of the good and great for creating an oversight economy with their SOXs and HIPAAs and hundreds of industry-specific regulations. Blame the bad guys--the hackers, the white-collar criminals, the online predators, the screw-ups who can't seem to hold on to anyone's personal data. Most of all, blame the hyperintense, bottom-line world in which we compete, where performance no longer is measured in years and quarters, but in weeks, days, and hours.

Which is to say, don't bother blaming anyone. This is the new reality. So before you start howling about Big Brother gone bonkers, look in the mirror. We're all active, willing participants in this control freak show. It's not just the government bureaucrats and the data aggregators and the huge retailers and the direct marketers who want to know everything they can about you and what you're up to. Every company is using technology to wrap its arms around its people, processes, partners, and customers.

Consider the evolution of E-mail. Employees still use the work messaging system like it's their own personal account, letting fly with all manner of inappropriate, inadvisable, and illegal communications. Meantime, E-mail is discovered in 90% of all corporate litigation. No wonder that companies, many of which are required by law to archive those E-mails for easy retrieval, are now monitoring them in real time for activity that would suggest fraud, regulatory malfeasance, leakage of trade secrets, and other misconduct--under the theory that an ounce of prevention beats a ton of fines and lost business later on.

But control isn't just about monitoring and tracking people and processes. It's also about extracting knowledge. For instance, phone, package delivery, and other companies use predictive analytics to figure out which customers are most likely to bolt for a competitor, so that they can take pre-emptive action. Even major league baseball teams and their tobacco-chewing, crotch-scratching managers employ "sabermetric" techniques to crunch player stats and identify undervalued talent.

Of course, employers and managers can go overboard with this stuff. We must remain keenly aware that creativity doesn't always show up in a spreadsheet column, that the controls intended to measure and boost performance can stifle it if they're applied independent of qualitative analysis.

Innovation is a tricky business. Informed innovation, however, is less so.

Rob Preston,
VP/EDITOR IN CHIEF
[email protected]

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
State of the Cloud
State of the Cloud
Cloud has drastically changed how IT organizations consume and deploy services in the digital age. This research report will delve into public, private and hybrid cloud adoption trends, with a special focus on infrastructure as a service and its role in the enterprise. Find out the challenges organizations are experiencing, and the technologies and strategies they are using to manage and mitigate those challenges today.
Commentary
Enterprise Guide to Edge Computing
Cathleen Gagne, Managing Editor, InformationWeek,  10/15/2019
News
Rethinking IT: Tech Investments that Drive Business Growth
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  10/3/2019
Slideshows
IT Careers: 12 Job Skills in Demand for 2020
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek,  10/1/2019
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Video
Current Issue
Getting Started With Emerging Technologies
Looking to help your enterprise IT team ease the stress of putting new/emerging technologies such as AI, machine learning and IoT to work for their organizations? There are a few ways to get off on the right foot. In this report we share some expert advice on how to approach some of these seemingly daunting tech challenges.
White Papers
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.
Sponsored Video
Flash Poll