21 February 2007

Users who know too much [CIO Magazine]

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Users who know too much
“The era in which IT comes only from the IT department is over,” states Ben Worthen in a long article in CIO Magazine.

“A new IT department is being born. IT managers don’t control it. They may not even be aware of it. But their users are, and figuring out how to work with it will be the key to the IT managers’ future and their companies’ success.”

“The consumer technology universe has evolved to a point where it is, in essence, a fully functioning, alternative IT department. Today, in effect, users can choose their technology provider. Your company’s employees may turn to you first, but an employee who’s given a tool by the corporate IT department that doesn’t meets his needs will find one that does on the Internet or at his neighborhood Best Buy.

The emergence of this second IT department—call it “the shadow IT department”—is a natural product of the disconnect that has always existed between those who provide IT and those who use it.

And that disconnect is fundamental. Users want IT to be responsive to their individual needs and to make them more productive. CIOs want IT to be reliable, secure, scalable and compliant with an ever increasing number of government regulations. Consequently, when corporate IT designs and provides an IT system, manageability usually comes first, the user’s experience second. But the shadow IT department doesn’t give a hoot about manageability and provides its users with ways to end-run corporate IT when the interests of the two groups do not coincide.”

The article advocates that IT departments do user research into employees’ real needs to come up with solutions that are both innovative and don’t compromise company security.

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