What is the first thing you do when a new employee is hired into a vacated position? You go to the office of the former employee, throw out all the furniture, computers, and peripherals and put in new stuff, right?

Well, no, of course not. What you do is place your new person in the ex-employee’s office and let her adapt the existing furnishings and tools in whatever ways she needs to.

Why is it then that IT managers don’t follow this common-sense approach when it comes to managing user accounts? You don’t build a new office and buy all new furniture when staff replacements are hired, so why do you do it for their electronic “office”?

A bright idea for network shares
Here’s what happens. Each new employee gets a network account for his “stuff” and he fills it according to his needs, abilities, and position.

And every time a new employee starts, the same thing happens. But the fact is that the job isn’t new, only the employee. So here’s my idea: Instead of creating new accounts (network shares), you should be creating position accounts. That way, when a new person starts in an existing position, IT would simply link him or her to the position account. All the stuff from the previous person would be there for the new employee to work out. Why should the problem belong to IT, when it really belongs to the position?

Instead of people having access to personal shares via their sign-on, you can have people having access to a position profile via their sign-on. People would still have their own logon IDs, but these would now be tied to a profile that is a position. So if I got a promotion, all that has to happen is that my user ID would need to be untied from my current position and tied to the new position instead. I would then have access to the shares of my position.

Seem too simple? I’ve tried to fault it, but I see only benefits to this plan. And here they are:

  • Disk space: You could limit disk space based on the position. And you would only have a single instance of disk space per position.
  • Inheritance: When someone leaves his physical office, he tidies it up. The same will begin to occur with his virtual office when he knows the next person will need to make use of it. IT services doesn’t need to be involved in the process except to cast off the old person’s user ID and tie in the new person’s ID. That alone should have your support staff dancing on the tables.
  • Individuality: It’s a sensible policy that employees can have some personal stuff in their position shares. Most of us can have photos of our family on the desk and a couple of hobby magazines in the desk drawers, so a limited amount of personal stuff should be okay in a person’s position shares as well. By treating the network space as an extension of the office, you will reinforce the professional use of the space and give people discretion.
  • Management: What goes into the position’s network share isn’t a concern to IT services. Why should it be? Let the owner and his or her manager worry about that. The current mindset that every piece of information is a priceless corporate asset is overblown. Most of my physical and virtual information assets are of relevance to my position and would make little sense without me as the position holder to provide context.

There has to be a better way to manage network space than the current system. Such a dated practice makes it difficult for us to gain value from the intellectual efforts of staff. The simple change to position shares, which is low risk, has no capital outlay, and is easy to implement, is not too good to be true.