Apparently, even the U.S. State department can’t keep its secrets anymore. The most recent WikiLeaks disgorgement amounts to a Facebook page on the department’s real likes and dislikes across a range of international relationships…although it’s not likely to make many friends.
What a cadre of Russian spies couldn’t do snooping around for years, a formerly obscure website has done in a matter of weeks. You don’t have to be a Bond girl anymore to engage in international espionage; you can be a nerdy middle-aged federal worker and get Hillary Clinton in damage-control mode with just a few clicks.
It all makes one wonder whether secrets are a thing of the past. We can now find more information on almost anything (including state secrets) than we could have dreamed of only a few years ago. But does this newfound level of access to information mean that no information is safe? It appears to.
I have mixed reactions to this. One is that our world economy is based on secrets. We need secret words to guard our bank accounts and secret methods to guard our inventions, and secret ingredients that make Coke Coke and Pepsi Pepsi. We also need certain things kept secret about our health and about our family, not because of economic repercussions, but simply because it’s nobody else’s business. So secrets are here to stay, and the task is to create more and more sophisticated ways of protecting our secrets one step ahead of the means of disclosing them. This applies to IT support as much as it does anything. IT workers have access to a dizzying amount of confidential information.
My other reaction is that many of the secrets we create are the result of improper conduct, indiscretion, or simply a lack of respect for those around us, creating the need for a public account that paints a glossy picture and a private account that tells the real story. These secrets are usually not necessary yet take just as much, if not more, diligence to protect. Many company org charts are built on who knows which secrets, and the reality is that the sole purpose of most of these secrets is to inflate the egos of those who hold them.
The same is true in support. For an industry built to solve problems, it’s amazing how hard many support organizations work to convince the customer that the problem A. does not exist, B. is not our problem, or C. will take 48 hours to resolve. IT organizations, as the keepers of the technology house of secrets, leverage inside knowledge to paint a glossy picture; one in which we hit every SLA and every customer is delighted.
But the problems in support are not much of a secret anymore, and further disclosing them might lead to the frank conversations needed for improvement. As Gartner points in their Top Predictions for IT Organizations and Users for 2011, “IT faces increased levels of scrutiny from stakeholders both internal and external,” and, “all parties expect greater transparency.” WikiLeaks just might lead to more open and honest international diplomacy now that other countries know what we really think. Support’s relationship with the business could use a similar leak.