No more secretaries – no more secrets?

The UK government is stepping up the stakes and increasing its own accountability for lost data so maybe the boring, detailed and tedious work of data security will attract a bit more glory and attention-to-detail.  But I doubt it.  It is house-keeping, and there ain’t no glory there.  

In the good-old bad-old days before the PC, Secretaries took care of their boss’s information for them. (Hush, little children.  There was such a time.  Mummy and Daddy were there).  When Reggie Perrin said “take a letter Joan” because he had a mind above typing, Joan did all the boring, detailed and tedious stuff like keeping track of information and who had access to which filing cabinet.  Imagine Joan needed to distribute an org chart.  She’d type it up,  get the key to the photocopy room from the MD’s secretary, log the number of copies in the photocopy book, and walk round the building and pin them on the notice boards.  She’d also get instant feedback on the new structure for Reggie, not to mention some interesting gossip and a couple of slices of cake.

But there’s really no cheap and elegent way to automate updating information so – still going with the org chart theme – in a large business these are stored all over the place: on dozens or scores of intranet sites, in any number of induction and orientation and planning packs, scattered through email boxes and shared drives.  And those are just the electronic ones – never mind the ones that individuals have printed out and put up on notice boards and cubicle walls.  

Its not just keeping track of information like org charts.  It’s not just the just the challenge of laptops and usb sticks and CDs.  It’s secure internet sites.  It’s keeping track of who’s allowed access to what internal systems, or the applications used and the support that’s available, or whether the temp who finished his contract with HR and came back to work for Goods Inwards still has access to HR’s shared drives?

The Business think of this as an IT problem, but IT don’t know what individuals should be prevented from doing, so they say it’s a Business problem.  And the Business are too busy doing their day job selling widgets to care.  And data is now so friction free it’s no wonder it keeps on sliding out of control.

This isn’t the Daily Mail.  I’m not saying “bring back the secretary”.  Legislation is the only way.  The speed of business is so great and data security so complex, that organisations won’t do it for themselves.  

Joan retired long ago.  David’s growing organic cress on the Isle of Arran.  Super.  But Tony is European Strategic Development Director of an IT consultancy with a contract with the government.  Sure, he’s got a PA but he shares her with the rest of the Leaderhip Team and she says “oh I’m not technical” when IT Services call.  He’s a high powered business-orientated guy who’s always on.  

So Tony’s sitting there using an unsecured laptop on Starbucks’ wifi while someone nicks the Blackberry from his jacket slung over his chair.  


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