I’ve worked for many companies, large and small, and consulted for others and they have all had the same problem, particularly the large ones. It’s the CIO’s dilemma. How do you protect your organization and your customers while still trying to give your employees the liberty to do the best job they can with the tools they have? This problem especially rings true in a Work 2.0 environment – as Generation Y begins more and more to feel comfortable mixing their work and personal lives, there is a fine line between what is work, and what is personal. This presents a tough challenge for any concerned CIO.
Corporations are starting to overcome this problem by implementing solutions such as Good, or Mobile Iron, which aim to enable employees to bring personal devices onto corporate networks and still keep their private lives separate, while giving the organization complete control over the organization-specific uses of the device. Even in this solution, there are still pressing problems. What happens when an employee receives work correspondence in their private email account? What if a correspondence with a friend of that employee could potentially damage the company?
I’ve been pondering a lot about this today, in a different context, since the HB477 Working Group meeting I participated in with the Utah Senate this morning. Part of the problem with solving any of the public’s complaints (including my own) on this matter is that it’s going to be pretty hard to get Legislators to tell the truth and uncover the underlying problem. I’ll talk more about that in another post.
But let’s assume Senator Bramble’s question and concern (he was asking me specifically in this case – you can watch the whole interview and my answer here (skip forward to 1:21)) here is true. If the underlying concern is that a Legislator’s private life has the potential to be exposed on the Front Page of the Tribune under current GRAMA laws there are solutions to that as well.
My answer to Bramble was to put public conversation on public devices, and private conversations on private devices. Representative Dougall approached me after the session showing off his Blackberry, saying he only used a personal device because he wanted to “save the public money.” He too was concerned on how we’d be able to protect his private life while making his public more accessible. The problem is in Dougall’s case this would be really hard at the moment because he’s only using a private device – in the end, Dougall’s costing the public more money by not separating his conversations onto separate devices. At least that’s with the current technologies in place in government.
This is not a new problem. in every organization I have worked for, I have gotten work-related email sent to my private email account frequently. When this happens, I have always replied, adding my work email address in the “from” field, forcing that email to go through that organization’s SMTP servers. The organization at that point can decide what they want to do with the message. They can archive it for their protection, or do nothing, but at least there is organization in that way, and hopefully the individual I just responded to can see that I like to use that email address when I communicate about those types of issues.
In regards to device use, I’ve seen various solutions. One option is to force all organization-specific communication through organization-owned devices. Any personal correspondence on those devices are absolutely prohibited. I know many companies that will fire you if they catch you doing such. Personally, I think this is the Work 1.0 way though and focuses around a “you go to work and do work stuff, and go home and do home stuff approach”. I don’t work that way – I bring my work to work and my home to work and I bring my work to home at the same time. And because of that I’m more productive! Still, that is one solution, albeit a more primitive solution, and the one I shared in the Working Group today.
In a Work 2.0 environment you have to have new solutions to conquer the problem. There are solutions like Good and Mobile Iron that actually seek to solve just that. You can also implement open source and VOIP solutions to help with this. Through software, they give an environment where, if you opt to use a personal device for work, you can easily separate your work and personal stuff, and work can have access, automatically, to as much of that work data as they need. We should be implementing technologies like this in Government as well.
My suggestion for Utah is that we start to encourage, and make it easy for Legislators and Government employees to be separating their public and private lives more, through technology. This doesn’t mean they need to do it all on 2 devices. This doesn’t mean the State needs to track their private communications. This does mean that we need new technologies in government to enable this process, make it easier to share public information and protect that which should be private. I promise they’ll complain about it – every employee does when this is implemented in a corporate environment. But the organization (in this case, the citizens) will be more safe as a result, and you’ll save less money in litigation and processing costs down the road.
As for what happens to those private communications which perhaps ought to be public? Let the original GRAMA take care of that. That process has been proven, and ought to be expensive and a pain in the neck for Legislators so that they avoid doing them in the first place (yet, they still can if they really want to). In the end, making it as easy as possible to make communications on government-owned devices (or software) public will save organizations like State Government money and give Legislators more time to do what they’re supposed to be doing in the first place.
Do you have any other ideas on solutions to this problem? How can we use technology to separate a part-time public official’s private life from their public? How do we still protect the public’s interest in this process? In or out of Utah, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this – this is something I think all governments could benefit from.