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CIOs must embrace consumer cloud tools or risk losing control

Matt Kapko | July 15, 2015
IT may not always be comfortable with the cloud apps and services employees use at work, but modern CIOs need to not only ensure the integrity of corporate systems but also set standards for the acceptable use of consumer tools that boost staff productivity.

cloud computing finger touch

CIOs are quickly losing control of the applications and platforms their employees choose to use at work. Personal preferences for cloud-based apps from Google, Box and Slack, among others, have spilled into the workforce at an astonishing rate during the past 18 months. Unsanctioned apps and services can negatively impact workflow, productivity and the general health of a company, but the potential damage can be offset with the right IT mindset, support and flexibility.

Consumers have virtually endless choice when it comes to cloud tools, but there are different dynamics at play in the workplace. Employee expectations don't always blend well with IT's goals, so many workers simply use the tools they want. In many cases, nothing stops the average employee from storing all kinds of corporate data in personal storage accounts.

"We've been tackling personal preference for quite a while," says Michael Hites, CIO of the University of Illinois. "If we're slow to get an enterprise solution out, the problem proliferates pretty quickly."

Hites says CIOs and their IT staffs need to stay ahead of these challenges if they hope to resolve worker expectations and corporate technology requirements. 

For CIOs, resistance to consumer cloud can be futile

Finding the right data and information is still a complex and convoluted proposition for many employees, so they look to external tools for help, according to Vanessa Thompson, research director of enterprise social networks and collaborative technologies, IDC. Thompson says IDC's latest research indicates that inefficient access to data from remote locations is undermining productivity, and she says it's getting worse. For example, Thompson still hears from executives who email their work as attachments to personal accounts because they can't easily share work files or take them home from work.

It's not always a bad thing for employees to use multiple collaboration platforms at work, but disparate sets of tools can negatively affect workflow and productivity, and threaten a company's information assets. NetScout CIO Ken Boyd says he doesn't mind his employees using different collaboration tools as long as the services meet IT requirements for security, compliance and auditing.

"Within the IT world, we don't have much of a choice," Boyd says. "One [set of tools] is always preferred but that's just not the world we live in ... employees have the ability to store anywhere they choose."

Collaboration complexity increases IT complications

The University of Illinois's Hites says a proper understanding of corporate projects, the scale of collaboration involved and the capabilities of IT's sanctioned tools can help offset the risk associated with employee use of consumer cloud tools. The more complex the project, the more resources CIOs need to assign to manage the collaboration, according to Hites. 


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