Beware of the power users' boomerangs

More IT work takes place outside of the IT department, than within it. This is the reality, dilemma and challenge facing every IT...

More IT work takes place outside of the IT department, than within it. This is the reality, dilemma and challenge facing every IT leader and team

David Taylor

Inside track

More IT work takes place outside of the IT department, than within it. This is the reality, dilemma and challenge facing every IT leader and team.

It is reality because we provide our "users" with ever more powerful, and cheap PCs, and encourage them to be used.

It starts with a so-called "power-user" having an idea for a spreadsheet, or database. He or she writes it up in no time, and finds it very useful. Next, they pass it on to a colleague, who may develop it further, and then pass it on further. Before long we have a company-level, mission-critical development.

It is a dilemma because IT departments simply do not have the time, or often the expertise, to develop such applications.

They often require serious specialist/financial knowledge. Also, such PC tools are often an integral part of people's jobs now. However, in the list of company priorities, they would not even feature in the top 100, so our business customers do it themselves. However, if we stop it, they will quite rightly look to the IT teams to develop them.

And finally, it is a challenge because these applications are being developed with no guidelines, heed to security, common standards, documentation, and methodologies or named support.

I often refer to these developments as "boomerangs" - they are out there somewhere and they will come IT's way - when they start to go wrong. The fact that you were never involved in them, never consulted on anything, and do not have the first clue about how to support them, are poor excuses indeed.

It is even worse if an external consultancy has developed them and then disappeared, or if the person who wrote it has now left the company.

Don't believe me on the scale of this? One IT director said to me two years ago, "This doesn't happen in our company, fortunately." I suggested we analyse this, and discovered (in an organisation employing 1,000 people) over 200 such applications.

So how do we turn these "rogue" developments into "controlled" answers?

Find out where your organisation stands - carry out a complete review, department by department, team by team, of all mission-critical PC developments. Check out documentation, training procedures, methodologies, support and, most importantly, who developed what (this is not for blame, simply to know).

Put in place an agreed method of developments. In my experience, offering run-time versions of PC software is too restrictive and does not recognise the real need so many teams have for PCs and their potential. The agreement will cover how such software will be developed, and will ensure that the IT team is kept fully informed of developments etc. It will also be clear who will support the applications, and who will pay for that support. Have one owner within IT who will ensure all of this happens.

This is so simple to resolve, when people are prepared to accept that such PC activities are needed, and when IT and other areas of the company communicate, work together and understand each other's point of view.

David Taylor is president of the association of IT directors Certus

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