Hey IT! Cut Me Some Slack!


I had a blast last week! I attended the GovLoop State and Local Virtual Summit. The experience felt like a real in-person conference. There was a main conference hall with break-out sessions, a resource center, an innovation hall with seven or so vendor booths, and a networking center where you could chat with other attendees. While I was in the networking center, I commented to the group that I was figuratively running from one break-out session to the next and from one booth to the next. I was exhausted by the end of it all and I hadn’t even left my desk!

My favorite session of the event was a presentation by Red Hat regarding “shadow IT.” For the uninitiated, shadow IT is “information-technology systems and solutions built and used inside organizations without explicit organizational approval.” Jose Simonelli and Ian Tewksbury discussed the need for IT to embrace shadow IT because IT can’t win that battle. Also, embracing shadow IT will lead to better business partnerships and ultimately to innovation. Stick with me. I’m getting to my big reveal. During the session, I reversed everything Jose and Ian said and looked at things from the business user standpoint. I started thinking about my current situation.

For the past year, my team and I have been using Slack. It has been a truly wonderful experience. I’m able to immediately send out messages to my teammates regarding upcoming opportunities for the whole team or concerning times when I will be out of the office or offsite. I can have a continuous conversation with each teammate to include real-time feedback and recognition, or we can do the whole “watercooler conversation” with everyone. We display media files to each other to really drive home our individual points. We can even share links instead of files, which alleviates the need for cumbersome downloads. Personal engagement has increased tenfold as well.

The team can make plans on the weekends and send funny and entertaining links to each other. One team member shared his cruise pictures with the team in real time. Even though the rest of us were in the office for the week, we felt like we were on vacation with him! On our lunch breaks, we have an on-going Training Meme competition (I think I’m winning so far). We had another unit join our division, so one of my teammates invited them to Slack and created an icebreaker: “If you could own an exotic pet, what would it be?” If you don’t know what a marmoset is, you should stop reading this and search Google right now. Everything was good until late last week.

Although my team was able to keep Slack hush-hush, IT is now very aware of Slack. They stated that Slack is not an approved website or software and they are currently taking steps to upgrade our web blocking software to catch Slack. Starting next week, my team will have to go back to mass email communications and out-of-office replies. We will have to go back to email attachments and links to shared drives (that are already overflowing). My team is devastated. What should I do?

I’m going to make a mountain out of this mole hill. I’m going to take a stand. If their “arrows are going to blot out the sun, then we will fight in the shade.” OK. In reality, I’m going to submit an IT request to have Slack formally researched and tested. Hopefully, they see fit to add Slack to our whitelist of websites. I know they are doing their due diligence. They are trying to keep us safe. Still, I feel like there is a little bit of a trust issue there as well. It’s going to cost time and money. All that time and money could be directed towards something…bigger. I just wish IT would embrace shadow IT a little more.

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Nate Bahn

Personally, I wish that the suits in IT would not just merely accept Linux – but promote it! In my opinion, a Linux environment would be cheaper and significantly more secure.

My 2¢.