What CIOs Should Do About Rogue IT

CIOs no longer control all of a company’s technology choices. But they still need to manage risk and save rogue users from themselves.

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The CEO has fallen head over heels for his iPad. The marketing team has set up shop on every social media site known to man. The sales group has secretly purchased its own software-as-a-service subscriptions. Meanwhile, the VP of operations is wondering whether there isn’t something better out in the cloud that the company could use to run its supply chain.

The whole world, it seems, is going rogue.

And why not? With the consumerization of IT, the rise of the cloud, and unrelenting business demands for technology, who isn’t wondering if they can’t bypass IT for technology that’s better, faster or cheaper? Forrester Research has dubbed this the empowered era of corporate IT. “Business is playing a greater and greater role in IT decisions,” says Forrester vice president Matt Brown. “It’s a long-term trend.”

Mark Schwartz, CIO for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) department, understands what’s behind the shift. When employees see a way to improve a process or require technology to enable a new business need, they want to take action right away, Schwartz says. “The IT organization—with its constrained resources, backlog of projects, governance processes and controls, and focus on security and maintainability—can’t always help or respond quickly enough.”

Experienced IT leaders will recognize the beginning of a story that usually has an unhappy ending. Remember when low-cost servers were introduced? Business units, frustrated by flatfooted IT organizations, bought their own. And once they realized how costly and difficult it was to manage their impromptu server farms, they promptly plopped them back in IT’s lap. The PC revolution? Same story, different decade.

But this time, forward-thinking CIOs are being proactive, in the hope that they can alter the ending of this oft-told tale. The challenge now is figuring out how to get to yes. CIOs are thinking about how to make better and faster technology choices, educating business colleagues about the enterprise risks posed by those choices, and developing guidelines—or conversation starters—to help business leaders make some of their own IT decisions.

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