CIOs are being advised to set up corporate app stores to discourage staff from bypassing the IT department and sourcing their own apps and IT services at work.

Almost two thirds, 60 per cent, of CIOs perceive staff and department heads buying in their own IT, dubbed shadow IT, as a threat to their role, according to a survey of about 400 European CIOs by analyst house Forrester.

The proportion of staff sourcing IT apps and services themselves is still relatively small, 19 per cent, a separate Forrester survey of almost 10,000 workers found. However Dan Bieler, principal analyst at Forrester serving CIOs, said the trend is becoming increasingly common.

“In general our surveys, and discussions with CIOs and employees, indicate this trend is increasing,” he said.

“Bit by bit employees are taking decisions about the usage of technology they are using for work.”

The cloud storage service Dropbox is one of the most commonly cited examples of shadow IT, but the range of apps and services that staff use vary from industry to industry and team to team, Bieler said. Sales and marketing teams in less heavily regulated industries tend to use Skype, for instance. Other common applications are those handling expense or HR management, or navigation for staff on the road.

CIOs need to consider three issues when it comes to staff buying in their own software and services, Bieler said. Should staff at the company be compensated for related costs? Are these applications safe? Will these apps put the firm in breach of compliance regulations?

Generally CIOs fall into two camps when dealing with staff sourcing their own software, Bieler said. They either negotiate with business managers about what apps staff should be allowed to use, which is more often the case in the UK, or take a unilateral decision about what apps should be allowed, more common in Germany, France or Italy.

“The more innovative CIO that we see out there is beginning to realise the point of technology is to support people’s requirements and business processes, to advance them rather than to create artificial barriers.”

An increasing number of companies are looking at setting up their own app store of corporately sanctioned third party and in-house apps as a way of presenting staff with sufficient choice, so they won’t feel the need to go around IT, he said.

“Corporate app stores are being pushed out across the board, companies realise they need to open themselves up to providing a different set of applications that do not correspond to traditional software,” he said.

Analyst house Gartner predicts that within four years one quarter of enterprises will have set up a corporate app store. Firms such as graphics card maker Nvidia and software giant SAP have already done so. However Gartner warns that just setting up a store is not enough, companies will need to refresh the store periodically for it to provide an adequate alternative to apps outside the store.

“The point is that IT needs to change to deliver what staff are looking for. Once this is the case there is no more need for staff to take matters into their own hands,” said Bieler.