by Mark Gibbs

IT Loses Control–and That’s Okay

Nov 17, 20113 mins
Consumer ElectronicsiPhoneIT Leadership

As users discover and attain access to software and services that empower them to do things that used to require IT intervention, IT has to change.

An important and barely noticed aspect of the consumerization of IT concerns the ownership and control of data workflow.

Over the last few years many enterprises have experienced a shift in how work is done with computers, mostly because users have been able to use software with increasingly complex functionality at decreasing prices. Desktop software started this process but software as a service (SaaS) has really driven the change.

Consider a new-ish service such as MeLLmo’s Roambi, a product I have admired since its launch. (I reviewed Roambi in my Network World Gearhead column back in 2009. Take a look at Roambi on the iPhone and iPad below.)


The concept behind Roambi is that devices like the iPhone and iPad offer a radically new way to visually present complex data and offer users an “intuitive” and useful way to interact with that presentation.

With a Roambi account you upload an Excel spreadsheet to the MeLLmo server, select a presentation style, and then publish. Users running the Roambi iOS app can securely download the spreadsheet, which is converted into an elegant interactive model. I think the Roambi app is one of the most gorgeous data presentation tools available, and what makes Roambi really remarkable is that the user can drive the whole process.

A user who in the past would have had to involve IT in moving their Excel spreadsheet into a secure and interactive format can now perform the entire process for themselves with little or no IT involvement.

Moreover IT doesn’t have to run the service infrastructure so, other than provide some initial assistance to insure that corporate standards are observed, IT can just leave the users to get on with the workflow. IT may not even have to front the cost if it’s a departmental initiative!

MeLLmo recently created a descendent of Roambi, called Roambi Flow, which I also reviewed for Network World just a few weeks ago. This takes the concept of Roambi into the realm of enterprise reporting and publishing and makes the involvement of IT in the production of incredibly sophisticated presentations even more minimal. (Check out Roambi Flow for the iPad below.)


The result of giving users this level of control over workflow is that IT will eventually only retain the greatest control over core enterprise applications which include accounting, enterprise resource planning (ERP), and customer relationship management (CRM) apps while it loses a lot of authority over departmental and workgroup functions such as line-of-business databases, presentation tools, and specialist applications.

How IT deals with this transfer of power will potentially have a huge impact on the shape and scope of enterprise IT in the future.

So, consider your IT environment: Which application and services empower your departments and users to the extent that IT has little or no involvement in how work is done? Is this a good thing? Is it a manageable process? Does it lead to data integrity problems? Does it introduce security and privacy liabilities? Can it be contained and made part of IT strategy?