A recent post by David Armano on the increasing mobility of digital content convincingly captures the trend towards digital freedom, allowing us to access (or send) content anywhere, anytime and through an expanding range of tools. Still, even as Web access becomes more ubiquitous and portable through the expansion of access points (free wi-fi), portable devices (3-G phones) and evolving cultural norms (virtual workers) there is a stubborn gap in digital mobility – particularly across corporations. While one company arms its workers with the latest Blackberry or multi-purpose cameras and essentially obviates the need for permanent offices, others struggle to provide wireless access to their workers in their own facilities…and wouldn’t dream of providing mobile devices to anybody beyond their top executives. And that’s just in the larger cities of North America.
Though a part of this lag is likely due to the economics of obtaining and implementing new technology, I suspect the larger reason is cultural. Companies sticking closer to the chained-to-the-desk, firewall mentality seem more concerned about what employees will do with their new-found freedom than about costs. We’ve all heard the typical concerns:
– “What if employees start leaking information… or surfing bad sites?”
– “Won’t some employees say bad things about the company?”
– “What if they spend all their time going to Facebook or YouTube?”
These concerns reflect a paranoia which is misplaced, and also a touch of executive arrogance. Trying to stall technology to keep workers in line totally misses the point of the huge advantages inherent in the new mobile technology, and of the futility of trying to bury or avoid digital conversations. What these companies need is not a new CIO, but a cultural overhaul.