The title of this post refers to a character from the Dilbert comic strip by Scott Adams. Mordac is a systems administrator whose “demeanor suggests he simply takes pleasure using his management and technical powers to make the users of “his” systems suffer.“ This sort of system administrator has long been accepted or even the norm in enterprise IT departments while at the same time being the bane of end users’ existence.
Practitioners of this style of administration are living on borrowed time, unless they change their attitudes. Systems that lock, block and prevent users from doing things generally create minimal, if any, value and can cause severe hindrances to productivity and morale.
In most organizations, IT is an expense and distraction from the organization’s goals which tend to be things like making money or educating people. As such, it is in IT’s own best interests to support the success and efficiency of those who contribute to the organization’s primary goals. When a “Mordac” controls the user experience, and the standard answer to questions users pose about new and innovative products and workflows is “no”, there are only a few outcomes, none of which are ultimately good. Assuming the users comply with the denial, the organization may be missing out on increased efficiency and/or competitive advantage. More likely though, the users will do as they like anyway, potentially exposing sensitive data, or simply getting the job done better without IT. Either way, IT is far from the hero in this scenario. I have lost count of the number of times I have visited an office and found the computer issued by the organization sitting in the corner, powered down and the employee working away on a personal laptop. When asked about the organization’s computer, the usual answer is something like “I can’t use the [expletive deleted] thing, IT is too restrictive”.
Be proactive. Enter a dialog with the end users. Have them define their needs as well as wants. So long as they serve the organization’s goals and don’t run contrary to any legal requirements imposed on the organization, do your best to fulfill them. When you can’t, let the users know why. They may have influences you don’t and can help overcome obstacles. If a particular obstacle can’t be overcome, at least they know you tried and that you’re on the same team.