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Anne Stuart’s BPM in Action

Michael Dortch

When Business Processes Fail: French Government (Tries) to Ban BlackBerry Handhelds!

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It has been said many times – particularly in regard to designing, engineering, and manufacturing things like cars – that "the French copy no one, and no one copies the French." Well, after today, we'll just have to see.

News reports today indicate that French government officials have recommended banning BlackBerry devices from government offices and ministries, supposedly including the prime minister's office and the presidential palace. The worry is that since e-mail sent from the devices passes through servers located in the United States and Great Britain, e-mails containing proprietary or sensitive information could end up in the hands of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA).

Research in Motion, Ltd., (RIM) makers of BlackBerry devices and supporting systems, claims that such intrusions are all but impossible. The company said in a statement that its e-mails are more heavily encrypted than Web sites used for online banking, reports said. The BlackBerry Enterprise Solution has been certified as acceptable by security agencies in Austria, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the U.S., with certification under way in Germany and the Netherlands, RIM added in its statement.

Nonetheless, France seems intent on banning the devices. Other reports indicate that unnamed French officials are already using the devices in secret, having found proposed alternatives lacking. Still others indicate that the French are not the first to express this concern. U.S. representatives at the recent G-8 summit in Germany were advised not to bring along their wireless handhelds, to avoid eavesdropping by our friends, the Russians, those reports said.

What are the BPM-related lessons here?

1. Protection of intellectual property (IP) always, always, always trumps the convenience of near-instant communication.

2. Technologies that do not meet an organization's security and/or IP protection requirements should be proactively banned, or removed from the environment as soon as possible once critical shortcomings are discovered.

3. Of course, the most important element of such a strategy is a careful, comprehensive assessment and prioritization of those critical IP protection and security requirements – ideally, before any potentially non-compliant solutions are considered, let alone purchased and deployed.

4. As I've said repeatedly after hearing it years ago from an IT decision-maker at a large financial services firm, "culture eats process for lunch every day." This means that once users find a solution useful, it's going to be difficult if not impossible to ban that solution completely. Which is why early assessment and understanding of critical criteria, and avoidance of candidate solutions that don't meet them, is so very important. Even to and in France. And, possibly, your enterprise as well.

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Ha! I can't believe this one, Michael!

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Business process management and optimization -- philosophies, policies, practices, and punditry.

Anne Stuart

I am the editor of ebizQ.

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