Don't Let 2014 Be the Year of the Ostrich: Take Action on Rogue ITWhat do global warming, international terrorism and rogue IT have in common? More than you might think. All three have the potential to cause serious damage, and all three are ticking time bombs that will go off if we ignore them. But despite concerted efforts to deal with the first two, nothing is being done to deal with the third.

If you are reading this article, you are likely both a perpetrator and victim of rogue IT. To paraphrase Jeff Foxworthy, “If you shared a company document with a colleague using a publicly-available document sharing service, you might just be rogue IT.”

First, a definition: rogue IT is a grass roots movement through which business users requisition unapproved, usually consumer-grade technology for work purposes.

Ignoring Rogue IT Won't Make it Go Away

OK, so rogue IT is not be as serious as the prospect of global warming, but if you work in IT, your career is almost certainly being affected it -- and probably not in a good way. Consider the following facts from a recent uSamp survey:

  • 41 percent of workers have admitted to using an unsanctioned cloud service within the last six months.
  • Almost 90 percent of these surreptitious document sharers did so knowing that it violated company policy.
  • 27 percent of workers who used an unapproved cloud service reported a negative consequence of such use, ranging from lost business to law suits to financial damages.

New technology is partially to blame; specifically, sophisticated mobile devices that are more computers than telephones and a broad range of publicly available cloud services. When used together, these technologies produce a volatile brew for rogue IT "chemists."  With these technologies, workers are free, for the first time, from the constraints of IT. Using a smartphone, any business user can share documents with colleagues, partners and customers directly through consumer document sync and sharing cloud services, and there is very little you can do to stop it.

As a consequence, most IT folks are taking their cues from the ostrich; sticking their heads in the sand and pretending the problem doesn’t exist. Good luck with that.

It’s time to wake up and smell the coffee, because this phenomenon is massive and it’s only going to get bigger. How big? Consider the number of mobile phones being used for business today:

  • According to Gartner, 1 billion smartphones were sold in 2013, over half the number of mobile phones.
  • 70 percent of organizations already support "Bring Your Own" (BYO) programs for mobile devices, and only 10 percent say they never plan to offer BYO (Gartner).
  • Over 60 percent of workers already use a personal mobile device for work (Gartner).

Next, consider how hard it is to share documents with colleagues with a smartphone using sanctioned applications:

  • 75 percent of companies have six or more content repositories (Gartner), so even if you want to follow the rules it is not so simple to know how to share documents.
  • Almost all BYO programs support only email, calendaring and contacts -- no document sharing.

The result is that upstanding, law-abiding workers are turning to a life of "crime" in droves. Consider the following figures: