EU

Viral spread of cloud is meant to leave IT out in the cold

SaaS providers seem to be using feature creep to bypass the IT department and encourage take-up of their services by staff.

Cloud vendors constantly adding new features designed to appeal to company users are helping the spread of on-demand software outside the control of the IT department.

Some software-as-a-service (SaaS) firms are open about targeting staff in the hope they start using their apps rather than those handed down by corporate IT.

Cloud-based collaboration and content management software maker Huddle recently described its use of this Dropbox effect, by which software permeates a business until it is favoured by a critical mass and the IT department has to consider incorporating it into the business' IT estate.

Dr Will Venters, lecturer in information systems at the London School of Economics, said SaaS applications can slowly morph over time in the features they provide.

"Because they can be signed up for with petty cash and housed offsite, the CIO is going to have a very difficult job saying, 'I'm sorry I can't install that or I won't allow that inside the organisation'," Venters said.

"It becomes a kind of nonsense to say I'm going to stop everyone using Doodle to organise their meetings, unless you can prove it's a security risk in some way or there's some significant challenge with it, which would be hard if you're already reliant on it for part of your organisation.

"It's not simply about cost and such like. It's the control of the IT strategy for the organisation that is harder to control."

Rollout of new features

As an example, Venters cited the case of a sales director who decides to sign up for a CRM application on the desktop for the sales department. The provider of that application will continue to roll out features and new functionality and the sales director can continue to sign up for that functionality.

"But that functionality can then extend beyond the sales function," Venters said. "For instance, it could become a social-networking tool that the sales director thinks could be really useful to roll out into research and marketing," he said.

"So my issue then is that the strategic purchasing of IT is now being controlled by one portion of the organisation's CXO function who was never in control of strategic IT direction or knowledge-management systems of an organisation before."

About

Toby Wolpe is a senior reporter at TechRepublic in London. He started in technology journalism when the Apple II was state of the art.

8 comments
greg.dargiewicz
greg.dargiewicz

...was of the candy shelves at the check-out aisle of grocery stores. "Let's see if we can entice the kids to undermine the parents' good sense!" Support, security, compatibility, data islands, user competence, etc., are matters that ought to be of concern to all managers - most I've ever known have never even thought about them, which is why IT has to be the gatekeeper, and so these issues become "IT issues" that management, like average users, complain about rather than provide the leadership for. BYOD, BYOApp, and the Internet (excuse me, "cloud") all have their place - but far from being unbuckable trends, these are areas to tread carefully and lightly.

Dr_Zinj
Dr_Zinj

Nobody is going to protect your stuff the way you will.

waltersokyrko
waltersokyrko

People who build data islands need to learn not to do it. Make them part of the solution. Assign them the responsibility of aligning the data island with the system of record manually. They will soon ask IT for an integrated solution, which they should have done in the first place.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Basically it's a new way of setting up a "data" island. Instead of using that keen bloke who knows a bit about Access, you can use the equally keen cloud vendor. Either way you have managers who aren't necessaril competent at IT making decisions which can turn out to have a significant impact on the entire operation. Saying that given how much the cloud can extend the reach, it could be more of a data continent than a data island though that would depend on said manager's budget, as the cost of setting up a data island rarely appeared on the books. Leaving them out in the cold as an argument, I'm not too sure about. After all if IT could / would meet the need the manager in question would not have gone elsewhere in order to benefit the business. The way to combat the creation of data islands or more correctly manage how they are created is for IT to get involved, to realise that they aren't or don't appear to be meeting a business need. This one is no different. Looking at this from the business is trying to get rid of IT, IT won't do what we want angles was is and will be the real problem Jimmy's Access application, or Henry's cloud service are symptoms. No point in just sitting there are saying this is wrong, or not fair. No manager is going to pay attention to that. Forget the what, sort out the why, or manage the how. Ask yourself this question when is IT called in to deal with Jimmy's data island...

MyopicOne
MyopicOne

...until somebody gets burned in a really big way. Then rinse, wash, and repeat, because many if not most non-IT folks cannot even understand the reasons why IT hedges so much. When people from other departments get fired for stupidity, they'll either figure it out or figure out how to shift the blame (as always).

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

So your so solution is to Deny reality. Most data islands are created because of at least a perception that IT couldn't or wouldn't meet a percieved need. Get it totally bass ackwards They are and have a solution, it's you who need to be made part of it, not them. World class buck passing Assign them the responsibility of aligning the data island? The people with the least capability and information on how to do that? Really? You need to to take a long hard look at what you are saying and doing, otherwise you are gone. You aren't the reason data islands get done properly you are the reson why they get created in the first place. My approach was you want to do it. Come and see Tony, he'll help you. Maybe he can do something better. Maybe what you want already exists. Can't and doesn't then at least I can steer you in to getting some basics right and avoid the usual pitfalls. So the islands were always alignable, they conformed to some standards, they were backed up, there was documentation, and I never got caught out with our access expert Jimmy has moved on you need to take this on.... Think about it. You build useful bridges. You get seen as the go to guy. You get to be the man from Del Monte. You make your job easier, you get varied and interesting work. You get to learn more about the operation. You don't get left out in the cold. Or you could keep on the way you are going and not be missed....

SKDTech
SKDTech

A: When it blows up in Jimmy's face and corporate assets are on the line.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Whne Jimmy leaves / gets promoted. Or his PC with the only copy of the access db drops dead. OR the business implements a new policy and doesn't renew licences for access for those that "don't" need it. (Seen that one...) When Jimmy's litttle app goes enterprise When the network boys reconfigure a few switches... Mind you the point of the question was. Thinking through all those External cause of failure that will not be planned for because IT wasn't involved for whatever reason. How do you suck in an island in the cloud into IT?

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