Invite Those Unsanctioned Applications In!

Bringing User Downloads into the IT Management Strategy

"As an IT manager, you don't want to paralyze your users," says Erich Umar, vice president of service delivery management at the American Stock Exchange. But being able to control such applications "is hugely important," he adds. "There's a huge benefit for IT managers to be able to handle those applications."

IT also has "to bring those rogue applications into account in your troubleshooting process," Umar says. If IT stays on top of tracking and managing those assets, it is better prepared to handle problems that arise, such as when a help desk call comes in. Otherwise, "you can wind up sitting there trying to troubleshoot the wrong problem."

And security should never be compromised. "You put processes in place to very quickly determine which applications will expose the company to high levels of risk, and dispose of those. And then you can allow the programs that don't," Forrester's Brown says.

One possible approach to securing the business environment while allowing user-downloaded apps is to tap into virtualization. "I'd look toward using virtualization on the desktop to 'sandbox' consumer IT," says Michael Cote, an analyst at RedMonk. "The IT department can spend less time on each app but hopefully benefit from the faster innovation that consumer apps usually have."

All of this, quite naturally, sparks the question of exactly what IT's role ought to be in making users aware of the tools at their disposal. "IT should be put in a position to educate the organization about what's new and what's available to users," Brown says. That is essentially what the most technologically savvy companies are already doing.

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