Ryan Holmes in Fortune – Crowdsourcing the CIO

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A column by HootSuite CEO Ryan Holmes was featured on the Fortune Magazine website yesterday.  Holmes weighs in on how ordinary employees, not the CIO, are increasingly driving IT decisions at the planet’s largest companies.  You can check out the story, and find out whether the iPad and freemium apps spell the end of the CIO, here.

The root of the issue is rogue IT – the name given to the software and devices that employees bring into the workplace on their own.  Examples include bringing your personal iPad to the office or using cloud-based software like HootSuite at work.  A recent survey points out that 43 percent of businesses report the use of rogue IT among employees.

In the past, of course, hardware and software decisions were the exclusive domain of the CIO.  But results weren’t always ideal.  CIOs prioritized security, compliance and compatibility, but didn’t always focus on usability.  As a consequence, a lot of traditional enterprise software is clunky, bloated and anything but intuitive.

But the newest waves of employees entering the workforce have begun to “take matters into their own hands,” explains TechCrunch contributor Alan Cohen.  Brought up on Facebook and sexy, intuitive consumer apps, they expect the same convenience and usability in their office software.  So they turn to the cloud.

Easy-to-use, online SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) tools have multiplied rapidly in recent years. Today’s employees can now bypass their IT departments altogether and take advantage of handy, cloud-based solutions ranging from file sharing services like Box to social media management systems like HootSuite.

Many of these SaaS options are based on a freemium pricing model, which makes them even more attractive.  Individuals can use the tools for free; only professional and enterprise versions incur a user fee.

In fact, this is often how HootSuite enters the workplace.  A single employee or group of employees signs on and discovers how convenient our dashboard is.  Word gets out and more people across the company start managing their social using HootSuite.  Finally, the CIO takes notice and makes things official, signing up for the premium, enterprise-wide version.

The whole process is fueled by today’s BYOD (Bring-Your-Own-Device) culture.  Employees using their own phones and tablets often don’t require official IT approval to try out handy SaaS alternatives to traditional enterprise software.

The end result is that the best software rises to the top democratically.  The hard work of beta-testing different office tools is effectively crowdsourced.

So do we even need a CIO any more, asks Phil Wainewright in ZDNet.  The answer, of course, is absolutely. We still need someone to make sure all the moving IT pieces of an enterprise work together.  Someone has to collect and integrate date, tackle security and ensure compliance.  And that someone has to be the CIO.  The good news is that – freed from endless software rollouts and upgrades – the CIO can now spend more time on what really matters: leveraging information assets to support the bottom line.

Rogue IT, in other words, is nothing to be afraid of.  It gives employees a voice in choosing intuitive, user-friendly software that gets the job done.  The CIO still has the final say but can focus on what really matters.  Expect to see an increasing number of “rogue” social media solutions – including HootSuite – enter the workplace and go legit in the months ahead as social savvy employees bring their companies into the fold.

For the full story, check out Holmes’ article on the Fortune website.