Tips for taming rogue IT

Sure, some rogue IT is the result of unmet technology needs. Other times, it's just the product of misunderstanding or miscommunication.

Often, says Lisa Davis, CIO of the U.S. Marshals Service, "the customer is not aware of what [the business] owns or does not own or how to apply it to their business." To deal with that, she's set up an in-house app store on the agency intranet. If users are looking for a geographic information systems analytics tool, there's one available via the CIO Store, which also provides links to training resources. "We have brought considerable change in additional tools and capabilities to the enterprise," says Davis. "Our focus is now on adoption strategies, on how we get those tools or apps integrated into day-to-day operations."

Jay Burgess, CIO at Muscogee Nation Casinos, observes that sometimes the new capability a customer is seeking is right in front of them. Consider employees' voice-over-IP phones, for example. The average user sees a handset on the desk and thinks it's just an expensive telephone, says Burgess. So his IT-business liaisons are educating users and rebranding the phones as productivity tools with integrated voice, video and data functions. Users are amazed, he says. "They can now see and find their coworkers, get voice mails from their email, integrate their calendars--all at a faster pace."

Ideally, says National Geographic Society CTO Stavros Hilaris, business users "articulate their needs in the near term so that we may develop proper solutions for their immediate needs as well as their long-term needs." But in the real world, that doesn't always happen. Burgess's biggest problem with rogue users is that they don't give IT a chance to meet their needs.

It's not just that users feel empowered by consumer devices and software they can buy with a credit card. "Business is struggling for survival. They're not following a strategic plan the way it is typically created. They're not looking five years out," he says. "But often times, they don't communicate [their needs], so IT is unable to respond quickly or nimbly."

And that may be because users don't know what they want, says Davis. "They know they need technology, but they do not know where to start." CIOs who want to head off rogue IT should get their staff--such as the account managers Davis has assigned to each agency division--out among those users to help them figure that out.

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