One of the biggest contentions I get into here at the bank is, for any given system or tool, the amount of lock-down required. The tendency of any institution, left unchecked, is to lock down things to such a degree that nothing can be done without appropriate authorities, governance waivers, and architectural oversight.
The thing is, organisations today almost always have a lot of clever people who can get around any lockdown, if they choose to. This renders whatever controls happen to be in place porous at best.
Now, I don't want to suggest for a minute that strict controls aren't necessary for some systems. Customer data, for example, needs to be locked down routinely. We all know what happens when that kind of thing is let slide.
But what about the tools of end user computing? Mobile devices? Productivity and collaboration applications?
These are examples, in my view, where less control can have very positive benefits for everyone.
The real question is whether an institution works better when people can find out anything they are interested in. Compared to the default state of most banks, where everyone is siloed, and information is on a need-to-know basis only.
If a bright young spark in corporate banking can see the high level strategy for, say, the payments business, does that not open up the opportunity for a potential collaboration of business interest?
Or the case where a senior manager can, with a few button clicks, find out that her colleagues team has started work developing a capability which she, also, is about to create.
Banks, with their focus on fiduciary responsibility, have elevated security and information control to an art form.
Luckily, though, we appear to be in the early stages of a phase-change.
I've written here before of the steps my own institution is taking with internal work on social media and employee collaboration, and its so very interesting to see the cultural change that's resulting.
A request for information is now often answered with “oh, just go to my site to get that”. More and more, teams are exposing the internal workings of their processes on the Intranet. And individuals have begun to realise that transparency enhances, rather than reduces, their organisational footprint.
But the key message is one that seems to reverberating around all organisations: when you trust your employees and let them operate with lattitude, magical things can happen. Individuals acting rationally form groups with emergent behaviour – behaviour that wasn't preprogrammed or oversighted.
My experience is that these kinds of emergent behaviours are almost always exceptionally positive for the organisations that they are part of.
And you won't be surprised to discover that you don't get any emergent behaviours at all when you lock things down.