Rebels With a High-Tech Cause: How Rogue IT Projects Happen

Business users who secretly deploy their own technology leave CIOs unnerved. But their roguish behavior is sending IT a message. Can you hear it?

The call came at 3 a.m.

Francis Juliano was working as the CIO at a former employer he prefers not to name when he was woken from a sound sleep by his chief executive officer, who was traveling overseas. The CEO couldn't get or send email through his corporate account and wanted to know why -- instantly. "It was a very heated phone call," Juliano recalls.

As it turns out, the marketing department had changed its outbound email management vendor a few weeks earlier without telling the CIO, and it had made a few mistakes.

First mistake: While the marketers collected data on opt-out requests and new customers who responded to marketing emails, they didn't send this data to their new vendor. So people who opted out were still getting emails, and new customers weren't showing up in the company's database.

Second mistake: The marketers were sending email campaigns through the company's own domain instead of using the vendor, which vets email campaigns to ensure that they comply with antispam laws as well as antispam rules set up by major email carriers like America Online. Within three weeks, the company surpassed its traffic limits and was flagged as a spammer. And so the provider shut down all its email.

It took Juliano three days to restore order. "What really blew me away was the initial reaction [from marketing]," he says. "They said, 'How could you, IT, let this happen?' I said, 'Who? We didn't let it happen. You decided to go out on your own, and now you want to tell us it's our fault?'"

Welcome to the underworld of rogue IT projects.

This was first published in June 2006

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