Red Barn Door by penywise at

Find Ways to Say Yes

The latest issue of CIO magazine focuses on rogue technology projects within an organization.  This is when business units decide to bypass the information technology team and develop their own internal team or external partnerships to accomplish business goals.  This is probably familiar to most workers, no matter what side of the equation you are on.

I started with Maryfran Johnson’s overview giving 3 ways to combat rogue IT.  I have tended to be on the business side of the equation, although (like many librarians, I am sure), the technology and information side often blends.  Picture an organization that does not consider information a necessity and yet funds and acknowledges the need, in a general way, for information organization.  It means that a separate team gets developed to support that technology, but it does not become significant enough to the business to be protected in the disaster recovery site, or to receive any prioritization of IT resources.

As someone quoted in that article suggests, a better solution is to avoid being the technology sphincter.  If the CIO is just a rationing point, seen as withholding resources and not providing resources, then business units will move on without IT.  I saw this in law schools, where most US law schools have a dedicated IT team separate from their main university campus IT.  You can imagine how a campus bureaucracy does not meet the expectations of a demanding professional faculty or student body.

I was talking over a strategy with someone in records management the other day and we decided that the only answer we really didn’t want to give was No.  But it didn’t mean the alternative was only to be a doormat and always say Yes.  The midpoint is Yes, but….

Librarians are used to not having the answer all the time, but we inject our expertise into our interactions with researchers.  Sometimes we act as an enabler, to help people get to what they need even though it isn’t a resource or document that we own or have access to.  Sometimes we do have the resource, so we are more of a gateway to information that we have already prepared and organized for our users.

An IT department can operate in a similar way.  They do the same thing, providing systems designed for the business to get its work done.  Where they seem to fall down – without a CIO leading with the right mindset or ability to mold the team’s culture – is in that other area.  An IT group that doesn’t have access to or control over a resource may be unwilling to allow a business team to leverage it.

The twin pressures of consumerization and cloud computing are making it easier for a business team to bypass this issue of allowed.  It is easy to get inexpensive, consumer-oriented technology to meet business needs, or to license a subscription to an online service without a large capital outlay or need for local hardware or software.

Some CIOs are embracing the change, providing funding to the end user to buy technology rather than providing the technology itself.  The role changes from a hardware provider to a systems provider, enabling the systems to be flexible enough to work with what would otherwise be non-standard technology.  It neither fights the realities of business user needs nor does it capitulate to the responsibility the IT team and CIO have to the business.

Others can’t, whether it is because the individual CIO isn’t able to change or the organization’s culture doesn’t let them.  If rogue technology is on the rise in businesses, though, these IT departments will need to figure out how to handle this problem.  IT teams that don’t deal with it will become little more than utility players, supporting the most basic elements of the organization’s technology, with the innovation being handled elsewhere.

The lead article on CIO is What CIOs Should Do About Rogue IT.

David Whelan

I improve information access and lead information teams. My books on finding information and managing it and practicing law using cloud computing reflect my interest in information management, technology, law practice, and legal research. I've been a library director in Canada and the US, as well as directing the American Bar Association's Legal Technology Resource Center. I speak and write frequently on information, technology, law library, and law practice issues.