Tim Duckett led me to this article which describes how a legal firm were forced into an embarrassing climb down after placing a blanket ban on the popular social networking site Facebook. After a series of complaints from across the organization, the IT director lifted the ban and instead issued guidelines for appropriate usage of the site.
Of course these bans are slapped down by IT departments all the time, and coming from an IT department background I can sort of see the rationale. However(!), surely they should first look at what’s attracting their staff to these sites. Why are they flocking to network with friends and colleagues in work time and is any good coming out of it? Here are some examples of what might constitute appropriate (and fair) use of a site such as Facebook on company time:
- catching up with friends and family during a lunch break (we all spend more and more time at work, so this speaks to a work life balance benefit)
- exploring who else in your organization has the same interests and connecting. Professional networking, but via the net.
- sharing media and updates with colleagues such as photo’s and business travel plans
- general exploration of how web2.0 can be supplemental to company goals
You see, I suspect these bans get put in place due to the assumption staff are wasting time, divulging company information, not properly representing the company image or even putting themselves in an exposed position by appearing to be an ambassador for the company.
Before your company blocks a site such as Facebook why not consider the following:
- Is the site being used because of a lack of social software/enterprise 2.0 implementations behind the firewall? Put simply, what are the alternatives for the employees? If it’s none, then consider finding someone who can talk to you about implementing enterprise 2.0
- See what Andrew McAffee has to say about the enterprise potential of Facebook and alike.
- Consider issuing guidelines for usage instead of a ban. Be up front with people about why it might be a bad thing to do certain stuff.
- Think about the young, net savvy internet generation your company is probably looking to attract. Will banning sites such as Facebook without offering any viable alternatives attract them to your company? Or keep them at your company?
This isn’t a rant at IT departments, as they are trying to come to terms with the boom in web2.0 applications and social networking as much as anyone. Instead I just wanted to point out that it’s not always a bad thing to do a bit of social networking on company time. The real answer is to learn from what’s going on and build on the desire to connect, collaborate and innovate. Not sweep it away with a block on firewall port XYZ……..