02:51 PM

SmartAdvice: Businesses Wise To Set Acceptable-Use Internet Policies

It's important to spell out what can and can't be downloaded on company PCs, The Advisory Council says. Also, be prepared to manage the cultural differences to succeed in doing business in China.

Editor's Note: Welcome to SmartAdvice, a weekly column by The Advisory Council (TAC), an advisory service firm. The feature answers two questions of core interest to you, ranging from career advice to enterprise strategies to how to deal with vendors. Submit questions directly to [email protected]

Question A: What issues should be addressed by an "acceptable use" policy about playing music and video on company-owned PCs?

Our advice: At many companies, the use of company-owned PCs for personal matters is discouraged or outright prohibited. Courts have established that personal E-mail sent through company-owned PCs is subject to company review. In addition, many firms block access to various Internet sites, be they pornographic, music, online auctions, chat rooms, etc., citing employee use of these sites on company time as resulting in lost productivity, or possibly leading to sexual harassment charges against the company.

Related Links

SANS InfoSec Acceptable Use Policy

BECTA IT Acceptable Use Policy

Monitoring Employees' Use of Company Computers and the Internet

The Threat of Lifestyle Computing in the Enterprise

Individual Rights vs. Corporate Controls for PCs

Understanding and Managing Illicit Image Abuse in the Workplace

For those firms that permit music and video playing on company PCs, there are several guidelines that should be established to prevent abuse of this privilege. Music downloads, if permitted, should be restricted to approved Web sites, such as Napster or iTunes, where the music content is known to be virus free and in compliance with the copyright-holder's intellectual-property rights. Downloading of music should be restricted to times before or after business hours. If over-the-network system backups regularly occur at set times, downloading of anything through the network should be restricted during these times so as not to create network bandwidth contention. In addition, all musical content that is sexually explicit in nature should be prohibited, following the same rationale as prohibition of pornographic material. One never knows when exposure to sexually explicit lyrics in a workplace could lead to a sexual harassment complaint. If employees wish to listen to music, they should be required to use headphones and at a volume that doesn't prevent them from answering their telephones or hearing someone speaking to them. Employees should be instructed to save such files only on their local hard disks, not on company network drives. Also, antivirus protection should be in place for scanning all types of downloaded files, regardless of the location where the files are eventually stored.

The viewing of streaming video should be subject to even stricter guidelines. Obviously, video that is pornographic or contains content that is intimidating, hostile, or offensive on the basis of sex, race, color, creed, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, etc. should be prohibited. Also, downloading copyrighted material, such as motion pictures or music videos, should be banned. Any site that offers streaming-video content should be approved ahead of time by the IT department before employee access is granted. In addition, a general time-duration rule should be established. It could be only to permit a three-minute video download without prior approval from, say, the director of network operations. Again, this is to prevent network bandwidth issues. Also, the same rules governing when to download (time and day) and where to download the content to, as outlined above for music files, should apply.

It should be made clear in the employee policy manual that music and video downloads, if they're permitted, are a privilege and not a right. Employees also should be told that they will be monitored for compliance. Finally, the policy should make it clear that violating the guidelines for music or video downloading could result in actions ranging from suspension of Internet access privileges to dismissal from the company.

-- Stephen Rood

Question B: What cultural and people factors are important to consider when building IT capabilities to support manufacturing factory and retail operations in China?

Our advice: The move of manufacturing operations to China has forced IT executives to stretch to meet the needs of the business and manage operations from thousands of miles away. This is complicated by issues of language, culture, regulations, and varying degrees of service offerings. The greatest challenge for a CIO in supporting operations from thousands of miles away is to find, select, and manage the people involved with this expanded business.

The people you work with in China will be coming from a culture very different than your own. Failing to take into account cultural challenges when supporting IT for manufacturing or retail operations in China can derail even the most well thought out plans. Understanding the principles of guanxi and mianzi will help you navigate the cultural landscape in China.

Loosely translated, guanxi in Mandarin means "relationships." An increased focus on relationship building will increase staff loyalty, comfort, and trust -- attributes necessary for all business relations in China regardless of whether you are the boss, customer, or employer.

Mianzi is the need, similar in many cultures, to save face. In the very hierarchical Chinese culture it is important to not lose your temper, openly confront an individual in a group, put someone on the spot, act arrogantly, or offer an inappropriate level of respect for a position.

The Chinese IT talent pool is vast, but finding an appropriate IT administrator who fits the unique aspects of your business should be a priority. Being able to determine education and experience equivalencies, evaluate language skills, vet U.S. cultural knowledge, and understand an individual's ability to influence and effectively manage a local Chinese team will be a challenge. Working with local recruiting specialists that have relationships and experience in finding internationally minded staff could save significant time and effort.

With an 11-hour difference between the one standard Chinese time zone and U.S. Eastern Standard Time, IT resources managing the Chinese staff would require one or both teams to work either early or late. The Chinese IT staff should feel as though they're valued as part of the overall organization, and this adjustment in work hours also needs to be taken into account to avoid staff burnout here as well as abroad.

In dealing with an international IT staff, more communication is far superior to less. Since the overwhelming majority of Chinese learn English from other Chinese, communication with a Chinese IT manager will require a U.S. IT executive to carefully plan communications, speak slowly and, whenever possible, use little slang, idioms, or American sports metaphors to avoid confusion. Ongoing English-language training of your Chinese IT staff will help in communications in the long run.

With a focus on the people and an understanding of the culture, a CIO in China can begin to focus on the other aspects of supporting Chinese manufacturing and retail operations, namely the technology, telecom, and regulatory issues and begin to provide significant value to the overall organization.

Related Links

CIA World Factbook on China

Executive Planet: Doing Business In China

USA-China Chamber Of Commerce

-- David Ross

Stephen Rood, TAC Expert, has more than 24 years experience in the IT field specializing in developing and implementing strategic-technology plans for organizations as well as senior project-management and help-desk operations review. His consulting experience has included designing and implementing a state-of-the-art emergency-911 call center for Newark, N.J., and managing technology refreshes for a major nonprofit entertainment organization and a large, regional food broker. He also worked at Coopers & Lybrand, General Foods, and Survey Research. He is the author of the book "Computer Hardware Maintenance: An IS/IT Manager's Guide," that presents a model for containing costs of hardware maintenance.

David Ross, TAC Expert, has more than 10 years technology experience, specializing in outsourcing, off-shoring, global sourcing, and project management. He focuses on serving IT, call center, and business-processes clients ranging in size from Fortune 20 to venture-financed startups across financial services, health care, insurance, automotive, chemical, IT, and the media and entertainment industries. He is a frequent speaker on topics of global sourcing strategy, site selection, vendor selection, and program management.

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