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The IT Agenda: Desktop Lockdown Limits

Now the pendulum has swung to the other side. Corporate America has modified its acceptable-use policies all too well, and draconian desktop lockdown is the norm at many institutions. To propagate some image of fairness, the lockdown is almost universally applied--no users can install or modify their workstation setup. Ah, unilateral policy: What a great way to avoid making management decisions!

One of your engineers wants to install a different app for calculating torque? A programmer wants to change start-up characteristics of a workstation? As Wayne and Garth would say, "Denied!" Get in line at the service desk--we'll get to you whenever we can. Now, this is efficiency, eh?

If you took away all freedom from your best employees--decisions about which tool to use, or when to work on a project, follow up or change tasks--would these folks still be your best employees? On the other hand, if you gave total freedom to your worst employees, what would they do with it?

Free people can be incredibly self-destructive or self-empowering. The question is, do you have the right to decide what your users will be? Or will their managers know how to treat each person appropriately?

As with any IT technique, lockdown applied indiscriminately across the board can only spell disaster. PCs certainly aren't "personal" computers when hooked up to the corporate network, but neither should they be "dumb" terminals. The PC revolution happened because people discovered that they could be more nimble by using an individual workstation and decentralized tools than by waiting for the Brontosaurian centralized IT to give them what they need. Having now realized the benefit of the workstation concept, why would your company now want to backtrack completely?

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