IT departments feel increasingly under pressure to be the “corporate police force” responsible for enforcing internal ethical and code of conduct policies, according to UK bosses.

The issue has been highlighted by the firing of Boeing’s CEO earlier this week after what appears to be the leak of one of his emails to the board revealing his relationship with a female co-worker in breach of the company’s ethics code.

Just over half (seven) of the 12 CIOs polled as part of’s CIO Jury user panel this week said they are taking an increasingly active role in policing any breaches of staff codes of conduct while the other five CIOs said it is still more of a HR issue.

Peter Pedersen, CTO at online betting firm Blue Square, said: “The IT departments are definitely becoming the corporate police force.”

IT departments are continuously being asked by managers across the business for information on misuse of email or phone calls, according to Les Boggia, head of IT at insurance company Carole Nash

“We are working closer than ever before with the HR department to ensure no details given are in breach of data protection and employee rights, but it does start with this being flagged within IT,” he said.

Angus Waugh, head of IT at the National Audit Office, said while more pressure is being put on IT departments to police these policies, responsibility should still remain with HR.

“The relationship between HR and IT should be such that IT’s role is to respond to genuine concerns raised by either HR or line managers over individual behaviours or work patterns evidenced by other factors, and not IT itself having to allocate resource to pro-actively police and alert the business of potential problem areas. In reality of course such a clear divide is quite a challenge,” he said.

On the opposite side of the fence Frank Coyle, IT director at John Menzies Distribution, said policing the content of staff communications is “certainly not” a job for the IT department.

“We are responsible for ensuring that information gets where it is supposed to go; not to validate the content. To do otherwise would result in a complete breakdown of trust,” he said.

John Odell, group IT director at BBA Group, said HR shouldn’t “pass the buck” to IT and Colin Cobain, IT director at Tesco, said his company has an independent information security function responsible for policing staff communications usage.

Ted Woodhouse, IT director, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, also disagreed with the assertion that IT departments are being forced to take on more “police” work but he also questioned Boeing’s code of conduct.

“Perhaps a more interesting question is why Boeing has a policy forbidding relationships with co-workers – that seems a little archaic and possibly contravenes human rights somewhere. Perhaps they’re frightened of the ‘Mile-High Club’ taking off, or rather landing, in Seattle,” he said.

Today’s CIO Jury was…

Steve Anderson, European IT partner, Davis Langdon
Les Boggia, head of IT, Carole Nash insurance
Colin Cobain, IT director, Tesco
Frank Coyle, IT director, John Menzies Distribution
Mark Foulsham, IT director, eSure
Rory O’Boyle, head of IT, The Football Association
John Odell, group IT director, BBA Group
Phil Pavitt, CIO, OneTel
Peter Pedersen, CTO, Blue Square
Angus Waugh, head of IT, National Audit Office
Ted Woodhouse, IT director, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust
Graham Yellowley, director of technology, Mitsubishi Securities International

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