Cooperation Is Best Way to Wrangle IT Rogues

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We've blogged before about "rogues," employees who bring their favorite consumer tech tools to the office -- without IT's approval -- because they feel such technologies help them work more productively.


While it's widely acknowledged -- if not accepted -- that a great deal of this under-the-IT-radar activity occurs, we hadn't seen a number attached to the practice until the release of a recent Yankee Group report. Eighty-six percent of employees use consumer tech in the workplace on an ongoing basis, according to an Ars Technica story about the report.


The report notes that 49 percent of employees say their personal tech is more advanced than the tech they use in the workplace, and 53.6 percent say they would be more productive at work with access to their personal tech and applications.


Datamonitor got similar results when it surveyed IT users and IT managers. The percentages of workers using instant messaging and Internet telephony at home were much higher than those using them at work -- which is bound to frustrate workers who see strong use cases for them at the office, notes an iTWire story.


Another sign of the pervasive nature of rogue behavior is a Wall Street Journal story titled "Ten Things Your IT Department Won't Tell You." The article -- which offered advice on how to circumvent IT to perform tasks like visiting Web sites blocked by corporate filters and how to access personal e-mail on a work-issued BlackBerry -- was the most viewed and most e-mailed article on the Journal's Web site on the day it was published.


The article upset many folks, including TechRepublic blogger Jason Hiner, who makes the case that cooperation between users and IT would yield far better and more secure results than the stealth methods suggested in the article.


Rather than using Google Desktop to sync documents between work and home PCs, for instance, it would be preferable for IT to set up a virtual private network and remote desktop connection for users to access work docs (the method our own IT Business Edge staffers use when telecommuting).


Hiner -- along with the Yankee Group and others -- suggests that companies need to find ways to allow employees to utilize consumer technologies in ways that won't endanger their employers by, for example, making it easy for hackers to get to confidential company data.


Indeed, a fair amount of this kind of cooperation may already exist, though few IT staffs seem willing to admit to it. The author of the Ars Technica piece says his IT manager gave him an "unofficial blessing" to experiment with non-sanctioned solutions to workplace problems because he was cautious and always asked first.


The Yankee Group suggests expanding this benign "look the other way" approach by offering users more tools to help them configure their workstations to suit their needs and establishing wikis or other forums for users to swap tips on working with unsupported but popular technologies.


We agree that enabling rogues -- within reason -- will likely work better than either ignoring or trying to eradicate them.