Nick's Notes

Challenge

We ran a story in the Daily News last week about one American company whose CIO has been outspoken about why he will never allow a bring your own device (BYOD) policy. His argument is that the employees would make the wrong choice and there are security implications, so he won’t allow it.

I like to read these stories from time to time because they are written from the opposite end of the spectrum of views from mine. It makes me think, reconsider and either strengthen my view or change it.

“Our employees are stupid” is the only conclusion you can draw from the CIO’s assertion that they would make the wrong choice given the freedom to bring their own device. That is a fundamental error for any senior manager to make. HR and line managers select all of the employees, and no doubt references were taken up. I assume they are good at their jobs, within the normal range of any company performance management system review process. Some will go on to greater things within the company, some will seek their fortune elsewhere and others will be happy to stay in their current role.

If, and it’s a big if, this CIO is right that they would make the wrong choice then what is missing is education, and if he has the knowledge then why aren’t he and his team educating their colleagues in the finer points of device selection?

The following day we ran a different story. An Australian company announced that it has successfully converted all of its employees to BYOD. The CIO said that their HR colleagues had been instrumental in supporting the move with their approach to creating sensible compensation and use policies. The employees apparently love the change and have benefitted from the training offered to ensure they can select and use a device well suited to their role. “We’re trusting people with $500,000 contracts but we didn’t trust them with $500 laptops,” he said. The value of the data may be a little different from the cost of a laptop but I think we know what he means.

The BYOD debates still rumble on – with protagonists for many variants and extremes of openness and lockdown still appearing on conference platforms around the world. I think that is interesting because it reflects a connection to deeply held views. In essence, the power struggle between what I used to call the “high priests of the mainframe” back in the 1990s continues in a modern guise.

I am a libertarian in this respect – radically so. Others are not, and have coherent arguments for their position. That positioning is fine. But just as Hayek argued that central planners will never have enough information to carry out their planning reliably, IT teams can never know enough to plan the usage of technology reliably – so trust the people doing the job.

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