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Let end-user freedom reign, but at the cost of rogue technology?

One of my favorite movies is Poltergeist, with its never-ending quotable lines. “What’s happening?” probably is the most famous; but my favorite is when actress Zelda Rubinstein, who plays the spiritualist Tangina, claims, “This house is clean.” Not so, if you follow the movie, the premise of which is, don’t build a new housing development on top of a graveyard.

In many ways this movie reminds me of an IT department (bear with me here). CIOs inherit all the decisions, good and bad, that their predecessors made. As a result, they often are being asked to “clean house” — to simplify, to automate, to gain efficiencies and to cut down on rogue technology.

Looking over this year’s CIO Innovators profiles, you’ll find that CIOs clearly have cleaned house — without the help of spiritual guides. Among them is Steven Johns, the subject of our first CIO Innovator profile in 2011. He rolled up his sleeves when he inherited an “infrastructure overhaul” on joining H.B. Fuller Co. in 2007. His plan of attack was to take back the core functions of IT from a third-party outsourcing giant, update legacy systems and move non-core functions to the cloud. This “turnaround guy” met the needs of users through the adoption of cloud solutions; those in turn reduced rogue technology. He also cleaned up some big messes that had been left behind: systems in place since the 1980s and no standard collaboration system across the global company, to name just two.

But as CIOs begin to build the next foundations in an age of cloud computing, shared IT services and the consumerization of IT, I wonder whether they are potentially adding a weak foundational layer, at least in terms of controlling rogue technology. Are they adding to the problem as they accommodate the age of people-centric computing?

Self-service provisioning, for example, often is talked about as a must-have for shared services to succeed. Self-service provisioning portals also are a tenet of cloud computing. Some CIOs believe that “self-services” — putting the power of technology choice into the hands of users — is the future of any good IT services organization. Left to their own devices, however, will users really make the right decisions?

Will rogue technology, which leads to silos of information — something CIOs are trying to undo in this Information Age — only get worse?

Sure, making it easier for users to get their hands on the technology they need is not only smart but inevitable. On the other hand, what precautions should CIOs be taking to lay a solid self-service foundation?

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