Friday, November 19, 2010


Should your CIO champion Telecommuting...

Collaboration is important, but fiscal responsibility is more important...

The vast majority of CIOs are leaving money on the table. They already know how to achieve productive IT workforces in an offsite manner. Isn't it ironic that you can outsource thousands of jobs to another country but won't trust a local coworker to work from home?

As an Agilist, I believe that the best architectures are built via face-to-face conversations, but even I also acknowledge that collaboration isn't something required every single day in a face-to-face manner. Has anyone ever thought about cultures where executives hide behind the excuse of collaboration and calculated the cost of interruption? The ability for anyone to start a conversation randomly with anyone else at any time is both empowering and self-destructive. Does anyone in their right mind not believe that the potential for productivity can increase if you remove interruptions?

Telecommuting isn't happening on a larger scale for one and only one reason. Let's face the reality as it almost always boils down to a lack of trust! No process, methodology, HR policy and so on will address the root cause. This is a leadership challenge that every organization faces regardless of telecommuting or not.

Has anyone ever considered how much real estate costs on a per-employee basis? Consider the scenario of a thousand person IT shop where people have to work a variety of shifts. You aren't just paying for real estate for IT personnel, but also need to account for additional real estate tied up in parking lots, the cost of security guards and even subsidies provided to feed these people in the cafeteria. If you happen to be located in a metro-area such as Boston, New York, Chicago, etc, you may be paying even more for parking and even putting your employees at risk. Think about the potential and the liability for a woman walking from their place of employment at night to a remote parking lot simply because she wanted to do a good job at work late?

Working from home is not for everyone. There are people who prefer to come to the office because they like the face-to-face interaction with their colleagues and find it easier to communicate and work with others personally rather than virtually. Working from home takes a certain amount of discipline, to stay on schedule. Yes, many employees who work from home, may satisfy the urge to do housework, shopping for Black Friday or watch TV but this shouldn't really matter. If I am an onsite employee, my mind may be thinking about shopping anyway and isn't it better to also people to remove this type of distraction vs letting it linger?

Corporations need to rethink the traditional models of hiring employees. An employee assessment and signed agreements might play a role. The 80-20 rule would certainly be a major factor (20% of the people participating would cause problems for the 80% by abusing their privileges). These 20% are the same ones who continue as problem children even without telecommuting.

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