– Ted Schadler, CIO

May 14, 2010

According to a recent Forrester survey, 37 percent of information workers use personal or unsanctioned technology to do their jobs. They download software, post video online and pull out credit cards to use cloud services. It’s not just a few outliers; it’s mainstream, including many employees in customer-facing departments.

This isn’t about personal entertainment. Employees rely on self-provisioned technologies for work-related tasks. Those surveyed say sites like LinkedIn, Google’s (GOOG) cloud services and devices like the iPhone offer better solutions than their IT group provides. And sometimes it’s their boss suggesting these outside solutions.

There are two big reasons this is happening. First, customers access these technologies, making them powerful sources of information. LinkedIn, for example, might have better data about a sales contact than your CRM system. Second, your organization can’t be agile enough to respond to the escalating demands of an empowered customer. Your employees can be, but will you let them? You should.

The wrong thing to do is put up barriers and become the department of “no Instead, find out what problems employees are trying to solve and provide corporate-sanctioned solutions. IT solutions will still lag the business needs, but it’s a step forward.

Ideally, you empower your workforce to safely harness technology. That requires you to adopt new ways of working. It requires that you be a technology adviser to the business rather than just a service provider. It requires your team to build allegiances with business managers.

Information risk won’t disappear, but you can work with the business to manage it. Build a risk-management group that includes legal, HR and business leaders. Teach employees how to protect themselves online. Help HR identify new employee policies. Give business managers the tools to assess the business risk of technology and leave it to them to make a decision.

The payoff to this approach is big, and one every CIO should strive for: It can make IT a strategic business adviser and tap the innovation and problem-solving energy of your workforce.

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