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Summary:

A new survey from Intuit QuickBase shows an increasing number of tech-savvy employees are building their own solutions without going through official IT channels – some even despite official IT opposition. Is this good news or bad for IT? For workers?

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Agility is the watchword when it comes to new ways of working. From using on-demand workers to sourcing talent regardless of location and empowering that talent to work whenever, wherever, companies are increasingly trying to enable their workers to get more done with less hand-holding.

Employees appear to be taking the trend one step further, however, according to a new survey out today from online database software company Intuit QuickBase, which found employees are increasingly bypassing IT for a DIY approach to tech. Inspired by Forrester’s “HERO Index: Finding Empowered Employees” report from last year, Intuit QuickBase and Global Strategy Group asked 903 information workers across America about how they come up with the tech solutions they need at work. They found:

  • 50 percent of information workers now turn to online databases and Web-based productivity apps, instant messaging platforms, video chat services and social networks to solve their own business problems without consulting IT.
  • 19 percent of respondents had customized a web app or software for work.
  • However, 35 percent of businesses still do not enable or encourage employees to create solutions independently.

The reason employees are taking matters into their own hands is fairly clear from the survey results – speed. Sixty-eight percent of workers who built or customized an app on their own completed the work in less than a week. Seventy-two percent of respondents said their internal development teams took more than a month to complete requests.

“The speed of business is increasing, and that’s driving a greater user demand for solutions,” Allison Mnookin, VP and GM of Intuit QuickBase, explained in an interview. “Information workers are seeking ways to compete. How do I be more nimble? How can I be more efficient?”

Other recent surveys have found IT is simply overwhelmed with keeping up with consumerization and the seemingly endless parade of devices and platforms it brings, so perhaps their slow response is understandable, but so is the desire of a tech-savvy workforce to get things done quickly. Employees increasingly import the expectation of painless, speedy IT from home to work. “Business users believe their pain should be solvable. In their personal lives, they’re starting to use technologies that suggest to them there must be a way,” said Mnookin.

Should IT resign as sheriff?

So is this move toward increasing tech independence a good thing, particularly as teams are spread more broadly in terms of location, creating added coordination challenges with distant IT departments? According to Intuit, employee-built solutions are working. Eighty-two percent reported their solution is still being used within their organization or team. And even if IT tries to stop the spread of this DIY ethos, it appears they have a hard time doing so: 17 percent of workers said they select tools and software to meet their needs even without IT approval.

There are also other reasons for IT to empower rather than try to control workers’ DIY impulses: Stifling them is irritating to the most proactive and presumably productive employees. Twenty-eight percent of all workers told Intuit they would consider moving jobs for a more technologically free work environment. For those crafty employees willing to go rogue and solve problems despite IT discouragement, that number increases to 50 percent.

Are these engaged and solution-orientated workers really the ones organizations want to lose? “Here are employees that see problems and want to fix them, and for most companies, those are the employees that you love,” said Mnookin. “And those are the employees that, with the wrong policies, you put most at risk.”

Which isn’t to say IT should suddenly take a completely Wild West approach. “Certainly, there are important rules in terms of data, governance and security that IT has always been the champion of and will continue to be important,” Mnookin said, but overall she is a fan of IT letting its hair down a bit when it comes to releasing employees’ tech creativity.

IT increasingly realizes the world is changing. They can’t do it all and they’re better off provisioning and checking on the things they care about from a governance perspective than just locking down employees, knowing that a certain proportion will just do this regardless.

If you view your role as enabling business to compete and serve customers successfully than that demand for the speed of change will be impossible [for IT] to meet alone. I think the old model of everything is build and solved by IT is going to die.

Do you agree with Mnookin that IT needs to loosen up and let motivated employees solve more of their own problems without interference?

Image courtesy of Flickr user toolstop.

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