Last month I wrote about how IT often takes the lead in business-driven tech initiatives such as business intelligence, with IT generally providing business users with a short, pre-vetted list of "acceptable" solutions. Yes, it makes IT's job easier -- at least at first -- but there's a risk that solutions that best fit the business needs simply won't be considered. This tendency has contributed to the trend of business users quietly adopting solutions not sanctioned by IT and hoping IT doesn't find out about it and bust their chops.
I spoke to Lyndsay Wise, president of BI consulting company WiseAnalytics, who told me that "many IT departments ... still aren't fully open to the idea of having projects driven by the business unit." While she didn't say she actually encouraged it, Wise also said, "There are many solutions that can be implemented on the business side independently of IT."
John Kitchen, SVP and chief marketing officer for Datawatch Corp. and a regular guest columnist on our site, seconded Wise's observation about do-it-yourself solutions in a comment on my post. He wrote:
... Some solutions can be implemented solely by end-users - including some which can integrate with existing systems without significant IT support and which still provide the end user with an intuitive tool and the insights they need without a significant time investment.
Like Wise, while he doesn't express overt support for this practice, it sounds like he thinks it often results in a win for the business.
The practice seems to be picking up with the increasing availability of easy-to-buy and easy-to-deploy cloud-based software. Writing on Data Center Dialog, Jack Fry says that in talks with other data center pros, he finds the official line on cloud computing -- tentative support for the idea of internal clouds, but not external ones -- differs from actual practice. He writes:
... Even when a company's party line is to take this cloud thing one step at a time, there are people in the middle of it all trying some pretty aggressive stuff. I've heard the story many times of how the developers at Fill in Big Company Name Here had each been racking up independently huge bills (totaling in the millions of dollars if you believe some stories) for services like Amazon EC2 without an official mandate to do so. In fact, in some cases ignoring an official policy not to do such things.
In addition to highlighting the need for more spending transparency (bills in the millions of dollars?), Fry's post stresses the inevitability of the trend. He notes that many vendors tacitly encourage it, by offering "freemium" pricing models. They provide product for free to win converts, who they hope will then help sell it to a broader user base.
Near the end of the post, he gets to the money question: What should companies do about these "rogues?" He cites an Enterprise Management Associates report that takes a positive slant on rogue implementations, saying they "can provide exceptional early stage experience and value" which will lead to better enterprise-wide approaches.
Fry passes along advice from EMA Vice President Andi Mann, who suggests establishing a group within IT to work with the rogues. They should be encouraged to experiment, beginning with non-disruptive systems and experimental applications first, but applying their approach to more important systems "if and when that makes sense." The quote from Mann:
Certainly stomping them out is not the answer. Instead, by finding out what they are doing and why, you will learn what is broken and how to fix it.
I think I like this idea of getting rid of the "don't ask, don't tell" approach and letting the IT rogues serve with honor. But at the same time, I know sometimes rogues take stupid chances that get an entire unit into trouble. What do you think? Would making sure the rogues keep their activities transparent and report to "official" IT remove the risk?