Unless you were unplugged and on living on a Himalayan mountaintop last week, you no doubt heard about the Great Facebook Flap of 2009. If not, then be sure to read Ron Miller's excellent recap at TechTreasures.
ComputerWorld's Frank Hayes posted a great article this morning that takes a look at how the "Facebook fiasco shows how much is out of IT's hands."
Hayes says last week's issues with Facebook speak to a increasing problem facing IT departments these days -- there's no longer a simple linear relationship between computers users and IT professionals. Now there business partners, vendors, suppliers, and service providers, each with their own agendas and business plans that could adversely impact how IT departments get the job done.
"A service provider could change its policies or outsource a function without warning us, thus suddenly breaking our promises to customers," says Hayes. "Our management could plan a merger or a new line of business without telling us -- instead handing us puzzling new procedures or terms to pass along to customers. A lawsuit could require us to do things that we can't explain to partners or even our own staff.
"See? It's a mess. And now it's our mess."
It may not be possible to avoid headaches brought on by the collision of competing agendas, but the best defense is a good offense. Read your EULAs and service agreements closely. Then read them again. Have your legal department scour them for potential pitfalls and problems. Identify weak spots, and develop a plan for dealing with worst-case scenarios brought on by providers who change the rules mid-game.
Above all, communicate with customers and users. When issues arise, keep them in the loop and let them know you're working towards finding solutions. You might not be able to head off problems entirely, but you can at least minimize the impact they have on your IT department and those you serve.