The Battle Wages On Over Unapproved Apps

It's often not a pleasant scene when an IT department discovers employees are using unapproved applications. columnist David Coursey wonders if there is a solution to the issue and urges readers to share their "war" stories.

What happens when an IT department discovers its users have built their work lives around unapproved applications? Worse, what happens when these same users want not just IT approval but applications development help?

This is the sort of intraoffice blasphemy that used to result in … well, as Monty Python says, "No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!" Least of all corporate minions who were just trying to get their jobs done the best way they knew how.

And if you, Mr. IT Big Shot, were to investigate, youd probably find that someone in your shop told these people "No" when they asked for help in the first place. Having been on the receiving end of many such IT turndowns, I know how these things get started. And Ive done more than my share of renegade user projects.

"Whoops, I cant say I really know how that domain server popped up on the network, Boss. But Im sure I can make it go away!"

This has been on my mind since a friend got caught running a department project on an unapproved database. Over time, the project grew in such numbers of users and mission importance that the friend finally outed the server he set up and asked corporate IT for help maintaining and improving it.

Need I report that all hell then broke loose? Mostly because he wasnt using the approved SQL Server (or whatever, not to pick on Microsoft) and the IT apps folks hadnt the vaguest idea how to program in QuickAccessMaker or whatever he used.

I dont want to debate the merits and demerits of any particular product, but I would like to start a dialogue on the issue of unapproved and unsupported applications. Or on IT departments that arent willing (or able for any of a variety of reasons) to help users with the little projects that make big companies run on time.

Its hard not to appreciate that IT doesnt want to have to develop chops in every application that might show up on a user desktop. Likewise, I pity users who cant get their work done because they dont know how to build what they want in an "approved" application and get demerited for using what they do know.

There are some companies that have come to accept what their users are using, but probably as many or more that either ignore the situation entirely—which seems like an excellent way to have a business-critical but largely unknown app go belly-up at the worst possible moment—or rebuild the app entirely in something they are using already. That seems like a real waste both in recoding time by the apps dev people and the lost ability by the users to make changes in an app they built themselves.

/zimages/2/70960.gif Id love to hear your stories. Specifically, Id like war stories about situations like this, but also about what it would take to convince the corporate applications development people to accept into their midst a database (or other development environment) they dont already know and use.

What does this say about how lines-of-business folks and IT departments work together? Too often Ive seen IT groups that, from the user perspective, seem almost completely removed from improving day-to-day business practices. Is there a way to change that—besides throwing more money at the problem?

Id like to hear your ideas on this and, hopefully, help my friend and his IT department avoid coming to blows, so use our Talkback feature to share your thoughts.

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