This is a management issue, not an IT one



I'm under pressure to facilitate a strategy that reduces time spent on personal e-mails. Users should have some freedom to use e-mail for non-work matters....



I'm under pressure to facilitate a strategy that reduces time spent on personal e-mails. Users should have some freedom to use e-mail for non-work matters. Can you advise on an IT solution to strike a balance between user wants and company rules?

RG Lowes, via e-mail

I find this to be an absolutely ludicrous position to take. The IT department is not responsible for staff's personal use of telephones, so why is it considered to be responsible for personal use of e-mail (or Web browsing for that matter). This is a management issue, not an IT one. The only way IT should be involved in the use of e-mail by employees is access provision, and if required, monitoring as is legally allowed. In fact, IT staff should be providing the logs from the monitoring to the relevant manager, and not reviewing it themselves.

If a user is spending too much time on personal use of e-mail, then one would expect that his/her work would suffer, this should be noticed and dealt with by the user's manager. Bleating to the IT department that they need to find a solution because it is related to this scary technical area is, unfortunately, the knee-jerk reaction of too many senior managers who, it seems to me, don't want to be bothered doing their jobs.

I've worked as technical support and network administrator in different companies for several years now, and this is not the first time I have met this attitude. I've usually used the telephone analogy, after all, you very, very rarely find management asking IT to do something to stop/reduce the users' use of the telephone for personal calls.

Problem 2

The real untapped value lies in the skills of individuals

I keep hearing about knowledge management and I can see that there is value locked away somewhere that has to be harnessed. We are looking at this from a standing start and advice is vague. I don't want to throw money at a project that will give us an extra layer of information to deal with.

Owen Wilson, CMG consultant, via e-mail

Traditional, technology-driven approaches to knowledge management focus on the capture, storing and sharing of explicit knowledge (or information), presented in the form of documents. This is the area that intranet technology, document management and information management has traditionally focused on. But in most companies this approach may not be sufficient because the real untapped value lies in the application of skills, behaviours and experience of individuals.

This knowledge is largely held in an unspoken form by individuals, and is often not shared with organisations. Effective knowledge management lies in accessing this tacit knowledge and providing an environment and infrastructure where they feel able to share this knowledge with their colleagues.

A major issue for organisations seeking to address knowledge management is how they can make it part of the "way we work around here", through embedding into working processes rather than an additional activity done when individuals have time or motivation to complete.

This can be addressed by mapping value-added activities to determine where the points of knowledge advantage are. So how do you start? My advice is:

  • Get a team together to identify one problem/ opportunity that will realise a business benefit through better knowledge utilisation;

  • Understand and resolve the barriers to knowledge sharing (this could be at any level in your organisation, such as your own team);

  • Get all your colleagues to fill in CVs and share them!

    Problem 3

    Talk about ways to improve training

    Enterprise resource planning users have been complaining for the last six months that they do not have adequate competencies and that our firm offers inadequate levels of training.

    Madelaine Menzies, via e-mail

    This is an all-too-common problem with roll-out projects of any sort, whether handled internally or by an outsource consultancy. End-users' expectations are high and there will be little or no mention of training in the scope document.

    You mention training, albeit inadequate, suggesting that training allowances have been made. Talk to your project champion about ways to improve training. If the standard instructor-led classroom training is not a possibility, suggest a structure of experts to cascade new-found skills, user guides and workshops run internally.

    The increased number of calls to the helpdesk, normally by 400% after implementation, is synonymous with the lack of effective education procedures. This will have far higher implications on both productivity and user-confidence resulting in extra expenditure in the long-term.

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