Why Slate magazine has a hate-on for IT managers

Slate magazine this week has published an article about IT managers that’s begging for a rebuttal. And I’d like to see that rebuttal come from other IT managers, rather than me. Farhad Manjoo, the online publication’s technology columnist, does a great job of encapsulating the most common rants about IT departments that you’ve probably been hearing for the last 10 years, if not longer. “Unchain the office computers” will not give you any new insights, but opinion pieces don’t always serve that purpose. Sometimes they make an argument that is well known and popular not which hasn’t been articulated every effectively. This one is predictable, but pretty effective. To wit:You ask your IT manager to let you use something that seems pretty safe and run-of-the-mill, and you're given an outlandish stock answer about administrative costs and unseen dangers lurking on the Web. Like TSA guards at the airport, workplace IT wardens are rarely amenable to rational argument.Manjoo cites Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking services, along with browsing around the Internet in general. He disputes the notion that such activities destroy productivity and insists that IT department attitudes stifle creativity among knowledge workers. He doesn’t even think IT managers can make a good call on what applications to recommend or install. What's worse, because they aren't tasked with understanding how people in different parts of a company do their jobs, IT managers often can't appreciate how profoundly certain tools can improve how we workIn Majoo’s world, IT managers make all the rules and lord their power over their coworkers. Nowhere in the piece is it suggested that usage policies are at least influenced, if not dictated by the CEO or senior management team. Nowhere it is recognized that IT managers routinely solve the most commonsense problems that these supposedly sophisticated IT users can’t figure out on their own. The nuances between a consumer application and their interrelationships with more complicated enterprise systems which make or break businesses is completely ignored. IT works, according to Manjoo, are a “class of interoffice Brahmins that decides, ridiculously and capriciously, how people should work.” Wow. The technology has changed, but the conflict and the perceptions from the users really haven’t. I’m not suggesting IT managers fill Slate up with comments or vilify Manjoo – Slate doesn’t need more traffic and besides, Manjoo is merely voicing aloud what he claims others were too afraid to speak about on the record. Instead, I’d suggest printing this article off and taping it to your wall. As you negotiate your way through office politics, poorly-educated IT users and take on the often reluctant role of enforcer, remember these words. This is what you’re really up against.

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