Friday, July 27, 2007

How to lobby for a pro-skype policy in your development organization

Satish Vangal conducted a survey on the km4dev (knowledge management for development) listserv about access to skype in the workplace. He posted the interesting results back on the list. As you can see from the graph, still 26% of the organisations (56 individuals replied from 46 organizations, and organizations were counted) have a complete ban, but in 7% of those cases, people still use it anyway. Another 15% allowed it, but with restrictions on uses.

He also listed some good points to consider while lobbying for a pro-skype policy in your development organization:

  • NUMBERS: 3 in 5 organizations (that responded to the survey) allow SKYPE with no restrictions. An additional 15% allow a restricted or unsupported use of Skype.
  • MAIN CONCERNS - SECURITY AND BANDWIDTH: The two major arguments I.T. people have against SKYPE are Security and Bandwidth. Invite them out for a drink to make your case! Ask them if their concerns are primarily bandwidth or security.
  • BANDWIDTH – DO A TRIAL: If they say bandwidth, suggest a trial to see if other things like email / web browsing slow down significantly when multiple people in the office are on Skype calls at the same time
  • SECURITY: Most I.T. people have a ‘gut’ reaction to something like SKYPE, which is a bit of a black box and so they feel it is an unacceptable security threat.
  • WIDE-SPREAD USE BY OTHER ORGANIZATIONS: Tell them that 75% of your colleagues are using it – and you can mention organization names from the table above.
  • FAR BIGGER SECURITY THREATS VIA EMAIL: If security is a concern, tell them that a dumb user (like ourselves!) clicking on an unknown attachment or link in an email message is much more likely to get a virus into the system than anything that utilizes Skype.
  • COMPROMISE - VOICE/TEXT ONLY, EXCLUDE FILE TRANSFER: Tell them that some orgs allow voice and/or typing but no file transfer (by blocking specific ports). This could be an acceptable compromise.
  • ACKNOWLEDGE EXTRA WORKLOAD: Tell them that you agree that embracing something like Skype may involve more work for the I.T. person initially – showing people how, etc. and the benefits don’t accrue to them obviously.
  • ORGANIZATIONAL BENEFITS: But benefits to the organization will be significant, and cost savings in phone calls over time will add up. Most importantly, people will be making calls that they would not have dreamed of in the first place – calls between Bangladesh and South Africa for example – and other countries where national monopolies impose high calling costs via normal phone lines.

Personally, I would say that if it is possible to collect data over reducing costs calls from other development organisations, that may be even more convincing than just saying that it will reduce costs.

In the e-collaboration group, several comments were made, one being: "It is a security risk as a black box, especially with all kinds of add-ons. And it hasn't earned a reputation yet.You might want to point your sysadmin to "Skype for Business", a version where you can include Skype in security policies for workstations, to at least be able to control and update everything as part of regular maintenance. " and "A good moment to start with that appreciation for system administrators is the last Friday of July that is "System Administrator Appreciation Day", your chance to express some love for the hard-working and often hard-to-communicate-with individual(s) behind the technology in your organisation :-)

Another person added: "In my opinion skype is very valuable (frequent user as well), but not for making regular phonecalls (skypeout). Skype has been steadily increasing their rates, including a call setup fee of 3.9ct. With general VOIP you can make most (european) landline calls free (for example via voipcheap or similar services) and it can be used by loads of so-called softphones (like gizmo or 3cx).

For all who ARE allowed to use skype, you can still go through our skype tips for the advanced user. If you like to know more about your to use skype in combination with a phone bridge that allows you to call in with a regular phone you can read our experiences with online conferencing.



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