Going Rogue: Do the Advantages Outweigh the Risks?

Are all rogue IT projects bad things? Could this type of activity be beneficial? If rogue IT projects could be beneficial, should they be supported or even encouraged?

Recently, I took part in a live Twitter chat hosted by the Cloud Commons blog (thanks again for the invite!) that was focused on Rogue IT. After hearing from, and engaging with, some major thought leaders in the space, I decided to write a blog summarizing my thoughts on the topic.

What does “Rogue IT” mean anyway?

I think that there are rogue IT users and there are rogue IT projects. There’s the individual user scheduling meetings with an “unauthorized” iPad. There’s also a sales department, without the knowledge of corporate IT, developing an iPhone app to process orders for your yet-to-be-developed product. Let us focus on the latter – rogue IT projects. Without a doubt, rogue IT projects have been, and will continue to be, an issue for corporate IT departments. A quick web search will return articles on “rogue IT” dating back around 10 years. However, as technology decreases in cost and increases in functionality, the issue of rouge IT projects seems to be moving up on the list of concerns.

What does rogue IT have to do with cloud computing?

Cloud Computing opens up a market for IT Services. With Cloud Computing, organizations have the ability to source IT services to the provider that can deliver the service most efficiently. Sounds a lot like specialization and division of labor, doesn’t it? (We’ll stay away from The Wealth of Nations, for now.) Suffice to say that Rogue IT may be an indication that corporate IT departments need to compete with outside providers of IT services. Stated plainly, the rise of Cloud Computing is encouraging firms to enter the market for IT services. Customers, even inside a large organization, have choices (other than corporate IT) on how to acquire the IT services that they need. Maybe corporate IT is not able to deliver a new IT service in time for that new sales campaign. Or, corporate IT simply refuses to develop a new system requested by a customer. That customer, in control of their own budget, may turn to an alternative service offering “from the cloud.”

What are the advantages of rogue IT? Do they outweigh the risks?

Rogue IT is a trend that will continue as the very nature of work changes (e.g. long history of trends to a service-based economy means more and more knowledge workers). Rogue IT can lead to some benefits… BYOD or “bring your own device” for example. BYOD can drive down end-user support costs and improve efficiency. BYOD will someday also mean “bring your own DESK” and allow you to choose to work when and where it is most convienent for you to do so (as long as you’re impacting the bottom line, of course). Another major benefit is increased pace of innovation. As usual, major benefits are difficult to measure. Take the example of the Lockheed Martin “Skunkworks” that produced some breakthroughs in stealth military technology –would the organization have produced such things if they had been encumbered by corporate policies and standards?

Should CIOs embrace rogue IT or should it be resisted?

CIOs should embrace this as the new reality of IT becoming a partner with the business, not simply aligning to it. Further, CIOs can gain some visibility into what is going on with regard to “rogue IT” devices and systems. With some visibility, the corporate IT departments can develop meaningful offerings and meet the demands of their customers.

Corporate IT departments should also bring some education as to what is acceptable and what is not acceptable: iPad at work- ok, but protect it with a password. Using Google Docs to store your company’s financial records…there might be a better place for that.

Two approaches for corporate IT:

– “Embrace and extend:” Allow rogue IT, learn from the experiences of users, adopt the best systems/devices/technologies, and put them under development

  • IT department gets to work with their customers and develop new technologies

– “Judge and Jury:” Have IT develop and enforce technology standards

  • IT is more/less an administrative group, always the bad guy, uses justification by keeping the company and its information safe (rightly so)

CIOs should also consider when rogue IT is being used. Outside services, quick development, and sidestepping of corporate IT policies may be beneficial for projects in conceptual or development phases. You can find the transcript from the Cloud Commons twitter chat here: http://bit.ly/JNovHT