Be a better Big Brother: Monitoring your coworkers

Corporations are recognizing the need to deploy surveillance technologies that track what employees are doing, but it could become a full-time job without the right IT. Follow this approach

Employee monitoring software is an amazingly useful, yet somewhat awkward technology. It can help your IT department weed out your worst time-wasters and layabouts — and even those who are sharing your corporate secrets. But while you may need to keep an eye on your employees, no IT or HR manager has the time to monitor the thousands of keystrokes that happen in a given work day across a busy network.

As a result, organizations that decide to “get tracking” have to make a few tough choices right off. Do you want a product that logs all keystrokes for later review? Do you want software that blocks Web sites and e-mail containing specific words or phrases? Or will you choose something more comprehensive that pushes reports to managers, allowing them to act on their suspicions to snare problem users?

The basic programs are cheaper, but they also require a bigger time commitment on the part of the IT or HR department. The solutions that can generate comprehensive reports can be more complex and costly.

Either way, says Jennifer Perrier-Knox, senior research analyst at the Info-Tech Research Group, organizations should do it right or not at all. “It’s one of those things that, if you do it, you have to commit to it, regardless of whether you go low-tech or high-tech,” she says.

But not a lot of companies are making this commitment. The adoption of employee monitoring software is not yet very deep, especially in Canada, Perrier-Knox says. It’s more common in the US, particularly at companies with legal or regulatory mandates to meet.

Many companies block well-known sites such as Facebook and MySpace, or spot-read e-mail. But, in most cases, it’s a complaint, or concern around a specific employee, that leads an organization to decide to monitor that individual, explains Perrier-Knox.

Monitoring mavens Still, at least one company isn’t satisfied with random checks and targeting obvious offenders — and it’s paying off. An IT manager at a mid-sized law firm (who did not want to be identified) says his 50 licences of SpectorSoft’s Spector 360 has returned to the firm’s HR manager 30–40 per cent of her working hours.

This is a big improvement over the old monitoring software. Before, if one of the firm’s managers asked the HR manager to watch one employee, it would take her “literally days” to provide an answer about the nature of that person’s activity “by going through each screenshot and watching it like a movie and seeing what the person was doing,” says the IT manager. “It was just tedious and time-consuming,”

Using the Spector 360 product, she simply sends back an e-mail report produced by the software that details all computer usage of a problem employee. (The IT manager still recommends the executive go through the report carefully to gauge the seriousness of the offences). Managers in that group or department can then, for example, see a keystroke count or what sites were visited over a given time period. Then they can decide if they want to approach the person and take disciplinary action.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags security products

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Adam Pletsch

ComputerWorld Canada
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?