Allen & Overy: An about Face on Facebook

I picked up this story up from Scott Gavin’s blog (who sources Tim Duckett), “Staff complaints force red-faced A&O into Facebook U-turn” about the London office of Allen & Overy (A&O) that first banned Facebook, then re-instated it.

Scott writes:

Before your company blocks a site such as Facebook why not consider the following:

  • Is the site being used because of a lack of social software/enterprise 2.0 implementations behind the firewall? Put simply, what are the alternatives for the employees? If it’s none, then consider finding someone who can talk to you about implementing enterprise 2.0
  • See what Andrew McAffee has to say about the enterprise potential of Facebook and alike.
  • Consider issuing guidelines for usage instead of a ban. Be up front with people about why it might be a bad thing to do certain stuff.
  • Think about the young, net savvy internet generation your company is probably looking to attract. Will banning sites such as Facebook without offering any viable alternatives attract them to your company? Or keep them at your company?

This isn’t a rant at IT departments, as they are trying to come to terms with the boom in web2.0 applications and social networking as much as anyone. Instead I just wanted to point out that it’s not always a bad thing to do a bit of social networking on company time. The real answer is to learn from what’s going on and build on the desire to connect, collaborate and innovate. Not sweep it away with a block on firewall port XYZ……..

In the past few weeks, I’ve become a Facebook fan myself. It’s very true that the blurring of the social and professional is blurring with the ease of use of social media tools, but in the case of A&O, the IT department had a practical reason why they wanted to shut it down– downloading videos was degrading the performance of the network. Sure you could say– oh, that’s B.S. They’re control freaks! But, hey, it sounds pretty reasonable, doesn’t it? I’ve been feeding a number of IT blogs lately that are talking about enterprise 2.0 and I’m hearing a lot more of these type of practical concerns vs. the command and control/sovereignity type issues.

Similarly, Bill Ives wrote a blog post I commented on over at the Fast Forward blog. I wrote there:

Hi Bill. Over the past week or so, I’ve seen a lot more IT bloggers talking about e2.0. This is encouraging to me. It’s going to take a “village” to enable enterprise 2.0 to take root in large corporations. I’m starting to believe that without the endorsement, cooperation, and/or tacit permission of the technology overseers within large companies, collaboration platforms and nextgen tools will be limited to yield their full potential.

I expect Tom Davenport and Andy McAfee will be touching on a lot of this in the live debate which is now scheduled for June 18, 10am at the Boston Westin Waterfront (Enterprise 2.0 conference). We are going to tape it for future videopodcast playback, but we are also attempting to livestream it as well. A big THANK YOU to Brian Solis who is helping out with this. Details and updates are on the BSGAlliance blog.

Andy (I hope I can quote him here in fun) says he’s, “looking forward to… publicly humiliating that Davenport unbeliever.” Remember, Andy, everything you say to a reporter is on-the-record 😉 I’m just waiting for Davenport’s retort!!

A good time will be had by all. Hope you can make it in person. The room only holds 45 seats– it’s first-come-first-served. And free bagels, donuts and coffee. (Now who can I get to sponsor that?)

Author: Susan Scrupski

Longtime fan of technology to improve humanity.