Guerrilla IT: How to stop worrying and learn to love your superusers

Your organization is filled with IT rogues and tech renegades. Here's how best to embrace them

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Tip No. 2: Let them build their own apps
When it comes to business applications and superusers, the rule is, If you build it, they will come; but if you don't build it, they will probably build their own. And that can cause big headaches.

Because of this, savvy enterprises that encourage superusers to build apps do so in a way that lets IT keep a close watch over security, performance, and compliance. Mashups and Web-based workflow tools are two popular solutions that allow ordinary users to mix data, processes, and services yet remain governed by IT.

"Mashups can provide a happy marriage between the desire of IT to govern and the desire of business users to innovate," says Rene Bonvanie, senior vice president at Serena Software, a mashup platform vendor. "Even if IT wanted to build these apps, they can't because they don't have the capacity. But there's an entire generation of business users quite happy to do this."

Using Serena Mashup Composer, business users drag and drop applications, processes, and content into workflow diagrams that pull data from designated applications and Web services. John Hastings-Kimball, vice president of workflow solutions at Thomson Financial, tapped Mashup Composer to create an app that bridged Thomson's ordering, entitlement, Citrix server, and contract and billing management systems, trimming the company's order fulfillment process from four days to less than 24 hours.

During the past four years, Thomson business users have built dozens of mashups for generating sales proposals, establishing business continuity plans, and performing incident management for critical outages, says Hastings-Kimball.

"It's classic shadow IT," he says. "We grew the product across the entire sales and service organization. Now we deliver solutions to almost every part of our organization from outside IT."

Meanwhile, Ministry Health Care and Affinity Health System in Wisconsin relies on more than 3,000 Intuit QuickBase applications created by more than 100 employees, says CIO Will Weider.

The hospital started by creating a QuickBase workflow app to manage meetings two and a half years ago, and it just grew from there, Weider says.

"We tried using Access and other Office tools, but those things really stink when it comes to sharing data between users, managing security, and adding structure to data," Weider adds. "Those are all things QuickBase is good at."

Rather than fight ad hoc app development, Weider believes in embracing and encouraging it.

"My goal is to have 100 percent of our knowledge workers be shadow IT," says Weider. "Every employee must be tech-savvy and leverage the tools provided in order for us to have any hope of achieving a return on our very expensive IT investments."

[ Guerrilla IT home | Tip No. 3: Turn them into sys admins ]

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