IT Staff Face Employee Pushback Over Approved Tools

Employees are pushing back against management and IT staff over the tools they can use, according to a new survey by NextPlane. This pushback can have severe consequences for tech pros and their company as a whole.

NextPlane, which builds collaboration platforms, has annually surveyed tech pros about the push-pull between employees, management and IT staff. For this year’s report (sign-in required), some 82 percent of tech pros said end users or teams had pushed back on either IT or management when “the company tried to dictate which collaboration tools should be used.”

Compounding the issue, some 67 percent of end users or teams had introduced their own team collaboration tools into the organization—despite the massive security risks of introducing new software into the corporate technology stack without approval.

Does this pushback actually succeed? Some 63 percent of respondents said that IT staff prevailed whenever employees pushed back—but that didn’t stop all employees from continuing to use their software of choice. Some 13 percent said that employees defied IT’s orders to stop using the software in question.

In addition to the obvious security concerns, running unapproved software can also impact the interoperability of the products in a company’s tech stack. From a tech pro perspective, having to deal with defiant staffers and unknown platforms can have a significant impact on their productivity and efficiency—as if the IT department wasn’t already overloaded enough.

And if all that wasn’t enough, there are also money concerns. “When employees incorporate technologies, like collaboration tools, outside the menu of options provided by the company, it makes it difficult for IT to keep accurate record of what tools employees are using and how often they are using them,” the report added. “This could be costly for the company as they could be overpaying for unused subscriptions.”

These kinds of pushback situations underscore the need for soft skills. Unless they’re complete psychopaths, most employees don’t want their IT staff to wrestle with security breaches or incompatible stacks; when they’re loading unauthorized software onto their systems, they’re simply thinking about how they’ll get their work done more efficiently, or how they want the communications platform with the cool GIFs (Hi, Slack!).

The key to “soft skills,” of course, is effective communication: tech pros such as sysadmins need to explain in a clear, friendly way why certain technology decisions are made, and the security impact of unauthorized software. Chances are good that, if you start a respectful discussion, employees will be a bit less likely to push back.

And barring that, of course, a tech pro can always click over to the administration dashboard and restrict certain software from the system—but that’s not feasible in all circumstances. Open discussion, paired with listening to everyone’s concerns, is always a good first step in the face of pushback.

5 Responses to “IT Staff Face Employee Pushback Over Approved Tools”

  1. Kevin Ryan

    There are two sides to this debate and this article is clearly biased toward the IT side. The purpose of IT is to provide the tools that the engineers need to do their work. Yes, we understand that IT also has to ensure the safety and security of the company’s computing infrastructure; but, too often, IT settles on providing what is easiest for them to their job and not on what may be the best possible set of tools for the engineers to do theirs. In the end, it is the engineers/developers that create the company’s product – not the IT department.

    • Make no mistake – the actual purpose of the IT department is to generate value to the enterprise through the use of technology, most commonly achieved through productivity enhancement and enterprise risk management. This will generally include providing tools for engineers (AND salespeople AND finance, among others) to do their work. IT security, availability, capacity, and acquisition/operational costs are all considerations which factor into the tool selection process along with end-user suitability. Executive leadership quite rightly depends on the technology expertise of the IT department to balance all of these requirements and answer questions that end-users (even engineers/developers) are simply not qualified to answer. In my experience, IT will have the full support of executive leadership before rolling out any tool to the organization – not because “IT settles on providing what is easiest for them to their job”, but because the solution represents the best use of finite resources to provide value to the enterprise. Any executive (or group of executives) that fails to take that viewpoint would not last long in their position.
      You comment goes a long way to proving the main point of this article – IT departments need to do a better job of communicating the WHY behind their actions.

    • To piggyback on that thought, far too often technology decisions are being made by IT and management in a vacuum with little or no input from Engineering. If you don’t include Engineering in the decision/selection process, it should be no surprise that you are going to get push back when they realize the selected product doesn’t meet their needs or is inferior to what they were using before.

      • Mark, that’s a very valid point. Technology decisions made with little or no input from Engineering is similar to product decisions made without input from the customer base. The end results here are engineers who can’t work efficiently, and customers who determine the company’s products no longer meet their needs. Neither scenario provides value to the enterprise.
        There are, however, frequent scenarios where input is sought and provided, yet the final decision (which is frequently NOT in the hands of the IT department) is not what some stakeholders had expected or desired. That’s not necessarily bad decision-making – it can be great decision-making entirely consistent with the company’s goals… just not transparent to some of the stakeholders. Good communication is really key to minimizing all of these issues – good communication in decision MAKING, and good communication after decision MADE.