The accidental IT pro and the IT-ification of the business user

The cliché is that IT is being 'consumerized' by smartphones, mobile apps, and SaaS. But in truth, BYOD and DIY also mean business users must be more tech-savvy

Here's a typical scenario: A line-of-business manager runs out of patience waiting for IT to procure and deploy software for a sales incentive program. Time to head to the cloud and fire up a SaaS app for that.

Except now the LoB manager -- not IT -- is responsible for provisioning users and running reports, passing data to and from accounting and HR, plus keeping that data secure. The 150 pages of documentation for the SaaS app become frequent bedtime reading.

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Here's another example: A marketing manager runs out of patience waiting for IT to build a mobile application. So off he goes to a cloud service that enables him to create an application from a template. It works, and his users love it. But it also needs to integrate with an existing local database, not all data should be exposed to all users, some users complain about bugs, new feature requests start rolling in ... and the marketing manager finds himself learning to become a development manager.

More simply, can you honestly say you've never had trouble setting up your work email on your smartphone by yourself?

Yes, conventional, centralized IT has lost power, and many tech decisions are devolving to LoB and departmental levels or to individual users. Often, tech procured directly from providers is more functional than what IT used to deliver. But now that business has broken IT, it has also bought it. Here's some crazy glue -- you figure out how to put it together.

Opting for the cloud isn't the same as outsourcing. The very nature of cloud computing is self-service. And although initial adoption may seem simple, downstream things have a tendency to get complicated.

Business users can manage that complexity when you're talking about a single application. But business computing doesn't work that way. Whether applications reside in the data center or in the public cloud, there needs to be a framework for security, integration, and best practices. Often, workflows and customer or product data cross many different applications. You really need an enterprise architecture that incorporates self-service and guards against new data siloes and security risks.

I'm a great believer in avoiding bureaucracy and enabling users to adopt cloud or mobile applications to enable them to do what they need to do. Today, at least part of the job of IT -- maybe most of the job in newer, smaller companies -- is to provide a framework for people to engage in self-service and not get hurt.

That cultural and operational shift is already well under way. One the one hand, you can say IT is shrinking. On the other, you can say IT has many more conscripts, since business users' DIY activity means more interaction with a broader range of technology than ever before. To those new arrivals, I say welcome to the club. I would love to hear from those of you who have become accidental IT pros and how we can support you in "getting it done" on your own recognizance.

This article, "The accidental IT pro and the IT-ification of the business user," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Eric Knorr's Modernizing IT blog. And for the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld on Twitter.

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