Saturday, January 27, 2007

Content Filtering and Productivity

Over the past year, I’ve read probably a dozen white papers from folks like SurfControl, NetSweeper, and WebSense, to name just a few of the vendors, on content filtering for the enterprise or government market. Virtually all of them sell their services to these large organizations using a “productivity gain” argument. Some of the associated sites even offer calculators that allow you to type in:

“Employees” x “hours spent surfing shopping/porn/gambling/video sites” x “average salary” = “lost productivity”

I have to admit, as well as some of these guys make their arguments, I’ve never really bought it. I’ve never been able to bring myself to believe that employees would waste enough time for it to show up on a graph. Then, last week, I saw a demo install of the new Fast Data Technologies “FastTracker for ESP” module.

The Fast Data Technologies “FastTracker” reporting module includes a color-coded “tree view” report that enables an executive or HR person to view all employee surfing behavior *in real time*. It allows executives to instantly see which individual employees are spending time at “non business” sites (or worse), and click instantly through to the detail.

The minute I saw the data and clicked through to the first user color-coded in the “bad behavior” table, I was sold. About 60% of the sites showing up were ESPN and fantasy football: The time spent surfing was almost 20% of that user’s day!

Forget white papers. Content filtering and productivity should be an experiential sale. From now on I’m going to insist that our sales engineering folks travel out to customer networks, plug in ESP, and show them this report - live. I guarantee there will be some very interesting looks on the executive’s faces as watch the demo.

Note regarding privacy when it comes to web surfing at work: we provide the tools. What is actually monitored or blocked is entirely up to the employer. All of our content filtering and compliance technology vendors - and Authentium has five of the best developers in the business as its partners on this - enable employers to create windows of “private time”, or “allowed lists of non-business sites”, such as approved news sites, health sites, child-minding sites, employee rights sites, etc. Need access to something not on the list? Talk to your employer.

No comments: