Mark Arrieta
Software Automation and Intelligence Laboratory
Computer Science Department
Tennessee Technological University
Cookeville TN 38505


Srini Ramaswamy
Associate Professor and Chair
Computer Science Department
Tennessee Technological University
Cookeville TN 38505
Phone: (931)-372-3691

I.A. Relevant NSF CERIAS Workshop Learning Objective: IC -1

For Donald Williams, this particular process has been uncharacteristically difficult. He knows that a decision must be made. Despite the many hours and tireless analysis put forth, a sound decision seems unobtainable. Williams is the Human Resource (HR) Director for Direct Supply. For the past couple of days, he has been reviewing the conduct and work production of one of Direct Supply's recently hired employees. The employee, Thomas Crawford, has completed his third month of employment with Direct Supply, ending the mandatory ninety-day evaluation period for all new employees. At the completion of this period, a performance evaluation meeting is scheduled. At Direct Supply, the process of evaluating employee performance is the responsibility of the Human Resource Director and the supervisor of the employee being reviewed. The Human Resource Director reviews the employee's files and discusses the files with the employee's supervisor.

The supervising manager is required to submit a progress and summary report of a subordinate worker before a scheduled evaluation meeting takes place. In the case of Crawford, as for any other employees working in the sales division, the report consisted mostly of sales statistics, expense reports, and call sheets. The information obtained from this report will be used to make evaluations of both the overall volume of productive work credited to an employee and the progress made by the employee during the initial probationary period.

In addition to the summary and progress report submitted by an employee's supervisor, the HR Director may also request other bits of information from various departments within the company. One such report that is produced by the IT department is referred to as a technology report. Included in this report is information about an employee's access to the company's electronic services and information. Information about system login times, session durations, and file access is maintained for each employee by the company's system software. The company has also purchased additional information monitoring software that keeps track of Internet usage statistics. This software tracks the time an employee spends on the Internet and the URL and times of each site visited. The company is using the monitoring software to insure that employees are using company resources only as a means of being productive in terms of company goals. The software, however, is only active during the company's work hours of 7:00am until 5:00pm. Internet access outside of this time period is permitted and can be performed without company monitoring.

For Crawford, the progress and summary report filed by Barker was outstanding. Much of the report focused on the Patterson Foods, which is currently one of Direct Supply's largest accounts. The account, which had been given to Crawford two months ago, was formerly the responsibility of Larry Tyler, Direct Supply's senior sales representative. Just before the time of Crawford's hiring, the Direct Supply client listing substantially increased due to a sales territory restructuring. Bruton Manufacturing, for whom Direct Supply has been a distributor for thirty-two years, enacted the restructuring. Recent financial troubles of a fellow Bruton distributor lead to that company's removal as a distributorship due to the company's inability to effectively represent the manufacturer. With the newly acquired accounts, new assignments and reassignments within the sales department had to be established. From the time of Crawford's hiring, he accompanied Larry Tyler on numerous sales calls made to Patterson Foods. During these sales calls and meetings, he established a strong relationship with the sales contacts there and was consequentially designated the sales representative during the sales reassignment process.

Over the next two months, Patterson Foods remained Crawford's largest account. In fact, the sales revenue from Patterson Foods, one of Direct Supply's oldest clients, has grown to a higher level than at any previous time. This climb in productivity largely contributed to Direct Supply's overall increase in sales of Bruton products. The strong increase has come at a critical time. Crawford has been under heavy pressure from Bruton due to what had been inadequate sales. For five straight quarters, Direct Supply had failed to meet sales targets set by Bruton. In fact, company officers were dreadfully aware that their distributorship contract renewal was no guarantee.

Crawford's success with the Patterson Foods account, as well as others, was becoming increasingly evident to those in management. The information provided in the report was not surprising to Williams, although the actual the figures that were detailed were astonishing. This was obviously not the source of Williams's dilemma. Rather it was the reports submitted from the IT department that created this perplexing situation. For nearly fourteen months Direct Supply has been actively monitoring the computer usage of all of its employees. In that time, only two individuals have been dismissed for failure to comply with the company's computer usage policy. There have been numerous occasions in which workers have been written up and reprimanded for what was considered minor inappropriate behavior. The statistics from the report filed on Crawford, however, suggest activity considerably more serious.

Despite conducting much of his business outside the office, Crawford does spend a portion of each day working in the office. Tasks such as producing sales and expense reports are produced using customized software. Because of this and requisition of pricing and equipment specifications information located on the company's server, it was not uncommon for most of Crawford's in-office time to be spent on his computer. It is now obvious that much of the time that Crawford spent on his computer involved non work-related activities. He was apparently spending an excessive amount of company time surfing the web. In particular, it was discovered that Crawford was frequenting a number of sports related web sites, some of which conducted on-line gambling. These activities are clearly outside the rules and regulations stated in the information policy contract which, along with an employment contract, must be signed by all new employees.

I.B. Discussion Questions:

  1. Should Crawford be fired for failing to comply with the company's computer usage policy? Why or why not?
  2. Should the company's monitoring policy be reviewed more frequently in attempts to made aware of problems before they become too severe?
  3. In light of the fact that two previous employees have been fired for the same offense, what message would the company be sending if Crawford were too keep his job?
  4. Is this type of monitoring system too pervasive, or should companies like Direct Supply have the right to monitor the use of their own equipment?