When you talk about management, what comes to mind? If you work for those few companies who seem to have all their ducks in a row, touting the dream-team of management, consider yourself lucky and move along. This post isn’t for you. This post is for the majority of people out there, the people who can’t help but simply shake their head when they think of management.
Management is a tricky game. One must balance efficiency with employee wellbeing. That’s something that isn’t really mentioned enough: employee wellbeing. It will not be covered much here but there is a great article in a recent COMPUTERWORLD about that topic.
First, let us define management. There are two aspects, the people – that is the individual staff members that form the hierarchical structure of the company, and the act of management – the things that they do with their time to work towards goals and objectives. The failure of management, in both forms, is rarely exclusive to one aspect but the big failures tend to muck it up on the noun side of management. They aren’t sure how to manage successfully. College didn’t do them much of a service.
One popular failure in the arena of management is due to lack of accountability. This happens when upper-level management has personal attachment to other staff members or when political agendas are involved. The first of which, in my opinion, is the worse of the two. Political ideology and agendas are a pox to management where personal relationships between management, be it romantically involved or just friends, is a clear cancerous tumor to the entire process. The signs are never very clear but when there is no accountability, it’s noticeable.
Relationships in the work place are dangerous. When I say relationships, I should make a few things clear. I am not referring to the relationships you build as a team even when you share the occasional drink at a local pub after some serious brain-sessions. What I mean is this: if you no longer feel that you can point out a person’s short-comings, you have gotten too close. Now, this is not to say that there are not tactful ways of telling someone they lack the appropriate management skills. One should always employ the appropriate amount of tact when dealing with tough subjects, but that should not stop it from occurring all together. In such a case, we would have moved outside of a working relationship.
Holding management accountable is difficult for the average employee. I know what you’re saying: I simply need to get to five o’clock and then the nightmare ends, right? If that is your opinion, please stop reading. You have more issues than I can possibly account for in this article. There are ways that you can hold management accountable for its actions or lack thereof. If you don’t want to involve yourself in the political game, it may be more difficult because this would require very sensitive movements through the chain of command. Just about every boss has a boss, sometimes you need to go out on a limb to enact change. If they all seem to lack the ability of proper management, find a new job.
Stay hopeful! If you’re in a bad situation and management is a brick wall, talk louder. Get people who can make a difference to hear you. It’s the only way you’re going to force change or, perhaps, get fired.
The reliance on technology is increasing, and in many cases, technical reliance is the Achilles’ heel of companies, organizations and government bodies. This dependency creates a substantial need for competent and trustworthy IT staff but all-too-often, IT Departments are neglected and poorly financed. Keeping technology “on the level” is often expensive and time-consuming. Many existing groups simply stay afloat when it comes to technology. The job of the IT staff is to patch holes in a sinking life-boat. This is an example of how many organizations “shoot themselves in the foot.”
Computer hardware and networking infrastructure is the main component in any enterprise architecture. The infrastructure consists of the workstations where users enter their data, the twisted pair cable that transmits that data, and the database that stores it. This is only a basic example but suffice to say, there is a lot of hardware and software that goes into operating a successful network. The IT staff is responsible for developing and maintaining the network framework.
Also, another key role of IT is to offer systems support. To do this, staff must be trained and knowledgeable on all software that will be utilized by the end user. Most technical savvy individuals can figure out software fairly easily. Software is developed logically (we hope) and therefore should be easily deciphered by logical people.
Support is fairly all-inclusive and ambiguous as terms go. Support also includes the mundane and ordinary things that need to be maintained on the servers and network. Should a user suddenly misplace or lose files due to drive failures or user error, the competent IT staff will be able to restore or repair the issue. This is where policies and practices are extensively tested.
Policies and practices are the fundamental laws set by administrators to create a logical set of instructions for dealing with real and hypothetical situations on a network. The importance of policy and implementation of policy can not be stressed enough. It is the only way to stay sane in the world of information technology. The greatest method of implementing successful policy and practice standards is IT governance.
Governance is a tool utilized by organizations to keep large groups of people abreast of the state and function of information technology. IT was once a stand-alone operation, a thug that had to strong-arm its users into acceptance of security practices and various restricting policies. Governance allows a much more democratic approach to running IT efficiently. Its primary function is to give non-IT personnel a chance to weigh in and democratically decide what priorities and standards IT will utilize. This removes one of the hardest tasks IT has to face: compliance.
In larger companies and government settings, policy compliance is rarely upheld by authorities in independent departments. The reason that IT policies are disregarded is because of authoritative power struggles. Any management personnel that does not report to IT management feels that IT has no control over their department and any type of reliance on IT is seen as a weakness on their part. This is a dramatization but I firmly believe that this is the case.
In many cases, IT is at the mercy of the compliance of the end-users. If a user brings in a thumb-drive from home that is infected with a virus, the network is compromised. If a user has the ability to download and install anything from the internet, the network is compromised. If a user brings in a virus and that virus corrupts the user’s data and it is lost, IT is compromised. It’s easy to see the relationship between IT and the user that it serves. Compliance of policies is extremely important. A policy would state something along these lines: “No user may use a USB drive without prior authorization. To receive authorization, please contact the IT staff.” At this point, the IT staff member assigned to this task would check the item for viruses and ensure that it is safe to connect to the network.
Policies and practices create secure networks and safe practices for users who operate applications. Without the technology, we are less productive and without value. It is important to operate within guidelines and enforce IT compliance. It is the only way to ensure that your data will be there when you need it.
As an avid internet user and advocate for user privacy on the internet, I have taken great interest in the current court case: Viacom Inc. vs. Google. According to the lawsuit, Viacom is suing Google’s YouTube for their lack of action in curbing the rising usage of copyrighted material. In case you didn’t know already, Viacom owns Paramount Pictures, DreamWorks Studios, MTV Films, and a host of various channels, mostly those with crappy reality TV on them.
A judge has ordered that Google YouTube data be provided to Viacom, Inc. so that they may build their case. This is typical in court cases. A plaintiff has the right to any information that may help build their case. But, there are a lot of privacy laws that prevent a plaintiff from acquiring, through this process, the personal information of people whom are uninvolved directly in the case. Sadly, these privacy laws mostly pertain to tangible items: mail, credit card numbers, and things of that nature. The information circulated on the internet is so vast that the laws have not caught up with the times.
According to Google, the information that will be turned over to Viacom, Inc. is IP addresses, usernames, search queries, dates and times. An IP Address is a sort of identification number that differentiated your computer from other computers on the internet. When you connect to a server and request a web page, the server knows where to send that data because of your IP address. You likely have several different IP addresses and not even realize it. Your IP address is given to you by your Internet Service Provider (ISP). Only your ISP knows who you are. You pay them once a month for internet so they know all about you. They know what IP address is yours, they know how long you use it and a cornucopia of other shit depending on what company you use. They all log different information from your connection.
When you connect to YouTube, Google stores your IP address in a log. Any time you type in a search phrase, they store that too and associate it with your IP address. This isn’t so bad. It helps Google improve its search engine. But, when a judge orders that information to be used in a court case, your information is now public record. I don’t want to alarm you and you shouldn’t be alarmed, yet. The only thing your IP Address and search criteria is going to tell anyone is the city that you live in or a city nearby and what you searched for. It will not tell them your name or address. Again, only your ISP knows that information.
While it doesn’t seem like a big deal that Viacom knows that some guy in Atlanta did a search on “Sexy Anime Chick.” It is. It’s a marketing team’s wet dream. Let’s say that a large portion of Atlanta is searching for “Anime.” Viacom now know that there is a demand in Atlanta for Anime. Not only does Viacom, Inc. know this but anyone who does an open records request for this case will get a copy of this information. Suddenly, Atlanta is going to have a lot more Anime channels.
Who cares? It’s what we wanted. Yes, it doesn’t seem like a big deal but this is the slippery slope. How long until your ISP is subpoenaed for your personal information so they know who has been downloading those anime shows for free. Viacom deserves compensation for your enjoyment of their intellectual property. Well, Google deserves compensation for the marketing research ripped from their hands by a judge who didn’t think things through.
Jonathan Zittrain, author of The Future of the Internet–And How to Stop It reviews the current and future trend of technology and the internet. He brings up some valid points gaining praise from institutions of law. I’m not going to go over the details of his points, at least not in this post. But, his primary concern is with the underlying dark nature of the internet and its abilities. I don’t think his concerns are unfounded.
I work in the Information Technology department of a growing government body. Actually, we are splitting at the seams. One of my primary concerns is security. We often have malicious attacks by various world countries that attempt to steal and falsify data on our network. It’s a serious issue. A computer, as we know, is simply a device for running code and doing as it says. It doesn’t have the intellect to decide what “bad” code is and what “good” code is. To put it into perspective, if it were a human, it would be a person who can’t determine the difference between “kill yourself” and “smile.” Granted, I wish some people would follow the commands you give them but their brain does a bit more processing for each command given than your household computer.
Here is where I depart from Mr. Zittrain. He wants us to fix the internet. I don’t. The internet is our looking glass into us. It only shows us what we put into it. And it’s no wonder that one in ten web sites is implanted with malicious software designed to sell us something or harm our computer. When I step outside and drive to work; as I look around, I see people trying to sell me their trash (not literally). I turn to NPR and listen to the latest numbers of people dying all over the place. Self-promotion and destruction is everywhere. Is it any wonder that the internet reflects those things? No!
BUT! That is not reason for alarm. The internet also has a brighter side. And while we are still uncertain about the future of the internet, we are just as uncertain about our own futures. It could really go either way. I’ll continue to hope for the best. Don’t change my internet. Let it evolve alongside ourselves.