Renegade IT – wave of the future?

Consider this:

You work in the middle of your company, and are often involved in collaboration projects. You decide that you could really use a blog, or a wiki, or something similar as a tool to facilitate your work.

You go to your IT department and enthusiastically ask for their help in putting something into place. Alas, they are an overworked and under-funded department, and after hearing the words â??justificationâ??, â??budgetâ??, â??schedulesâ?? and the like you realize you are getting nowhere. These arenâ??t bad people; they just arenâ??t used to implementing anything this quickly. In their world, software is something that takes months to buy, months to implement.

Then you hit the web to find an alternative, and you learn that itâ??s really pretty easy to do this stuff on your own. You have the ability to create a secure account with a company who will host these tools. For the price of a yearâ??s worth of Harvard Business Review, you can have the entire thing online tomorrow, with a yearâ??s access paid in advance, along with the ability to administer it yourself.

With a credit card someone can buy an awful lot of infrastructure these days, from exchange accounts for email, to Jotspot for blogs, wikis and other knowledge management tools, to Salesforce.com for CRM. Other companies are talking about putting MS Office-caliber applications online. Soon, a lot of us may be working at very simple internet terminals and simply renting applications.

Is it ethical to bypass the internal department to get the job done?

These companies have security policies, and the information is owned by the account holderâ?¦but is possession 9/10ths of the law?

Are modern IT departments becoming irrelevant?

How about using these services on a shot term basis, to justify a permanent, IT-friendly, solution?

What are your thoughts?

5 thoughts on “Renegade IT – wave of the future?

  1. Steve,

    As an IT guy, and more importantly, the Security Manager for a medium sized company, I have to tell you you’ld be taking your job into your own hands by implementing the Wiki on your own. If you violate company policy, you could find yourself looking for a new job very easily.

    Most companies have (or at least should have) policies that explicitly state that personal equipment is not allowed on the network. In fact, many companies explicitly state that all such equipment has to be purchased and installed by the IT department. You might be able to get around some of these policies by bringing in higher level management, but you’d better have some heavy backing and good business reasons.

    You raise an interesting point about possession of the information: yes, you might own the information, but you don’t own the equipment it’s on. There’s a reason that the IT department is the one who is charged with setting up the equipment. Are you an IT professional? Do you know how to set up a Windows or Linux server so that it doesn’t conflict with other systems on the network? Do you know how to secure the system so that it doesn’t open your corporate network to attack?

    Could you set something up as a testbed to prove that it’s a good project? Sure, but I’d have some buyin and cooperation from IT before you started. They might not have the time to do the project for you, but at the least they might have some suggestions for setting up your new system in a way that’s going to be secure and won’t cause with other systems. And they’d know where to look it they do start experiencing problems.

    IT is overworked, but I doubt they will become irrelevant any time soon. If anything, your IT department is gaining more corporate strength all the time. Especially where security is involved.

    I don’t think ethics figure into this equation, other than questioning if it’s ethical do bypass company policy. You might get away with the implementation; it might even make you a hero. But it’s a lot more likely that it’ll get you in trouble, and it might even cost you your job.

    Martin

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  2. Martin,

    Many thanks for your reply! I think I may not have been clear…

    I’m not talking about connecting a new system to the network, or even about downloading any software to computers on their network. I’m talking about using applications, accessed via the Internet, that exist on servers outside the company’s domain. For example, you can create a wiki on Jotspot that is limited access, and according to their pages is reasonably secure. It’s not connected to the company network in any way, and exists outside the company’s domain.

    In such a situation, you could argue that the company has no authority over the wiki at all, if it was created and maintained without using corporate resources. But, for this discussion, let’s assume the parties involved are acting in the company’s best interest.

    From a practical perspective, the IT department cannot really block usage, at least not outside of the company’s Internet connection. This is similar to several folks who I know, who, even though their company provides email service, put their own personal email address on their business cards. In some cases it’s an AOL address, in others it’s a private domain. Same kind of thing, no?

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  3. Steve,

    I totally get what you’re saying and have bypassed IT and implemented web-based solutions and will continue to do so.

    However, like you, I work in competitive intelligence and I’ve only used these solutions to host competitive data. I wouldn’t take the risk of hosting our own data.

    But in environments where collaboration is not widely accepted and IT moves slow, if at all, hosted solutions of non-sensitive data make all the sense in the world.

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  4. for quite a few years now, small businesses and microbusinesses have all kinds of cool tools that big company workers do not. skype, instant messaging, ftp sites like yousendit.com are godsends to small business people but strike fear in the hearts of IT managers. this is one reason why graphic arts vendors and printers themselves are don’t understand what new media are and what they can do… they’re not allowed to use them in their own companies. unless they have a teenager at home, they have no inkling of how the industry is being undermined.

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