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What Dropbox’s 2 Million Enterprise Accounts Mean for CIOs

on August 6, 2013

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Dropbox, like Mendix, bridges IT and business partners by providing the response times and ease-of-use that business people want with the control and governance that IT needs.

IconsDropbox Inc is hitting the enterprise market with a splash, and it’s opening up some interesting conversation about the way enterprises and consumer technology companies interact. The move is enabling millions of CIOs to say “hey – if we can’t beat em, join em” to those shadow-IT adopting business units that used to keep them up at night. The company has even hired former Salesforce.com Inc SVP of enterprise strategy and alliances Ross Piper, a proper chaperon to usher in a new enterprise era for the file sharing and collaboration software-as-a-service. The question is: Does this strategy mark a shift in the way enterprises manage rogue apps, or perhaps a new frontier for once consumer-only tech?

There’s no arguing businesses love Dropbox’s ease-of-use and top-notch collaboration capabilities. These features are what rooted them in so many IT ecosystems to begin with. But only recently have they begun to serve up functionality that enables IT departments to keep an eye on what type of files are stored, and who has access to them. This is a move that not only takes advantage of the huge number of [currently free] accounts living on enterprise machines, but also to ease the data governance fears that comes with all of those accounts. Sure, Dropbox hasn’t exactly been the Fort Knox of cloud services according to the press in the past, but let’s be honest – there’s really no better motivation to audit your security.

While Dropbox is shifting its priorities, CIOs are shifting cloud-security sentiments on the other side of that same coin.  This just may be the signal that CIOs need to give in to the often tumultuous give-and-take relationship between business units and IT departments. It turns out, business users are going to adopt the tools they need to achieve their goals anyway (duh!). Remember, they were hired to achieve those goals. And come on folks – enterprise applications are no longer a field of dreams; the truth is that if you build it, they may or may not come. It really depends whether IT’s apps are better than the ones that business people can find on their own.

The trick to managing these dynamics will be for business units and IT departments to meet somewhere in the middle. In any case, consumer technologies will have to up their enterprise game or risk getting blocked out of these organizations for good. That means business units will have a choice: use their IT departments, or use rogue apps. IT departments can only beat out these rogue apps by successfully enabling their business counterparts with the apps they need, when they need them. With the cloud, big data, codeless development, and enterprise 2.0 collaboration, CIOs now have more concentrated innovation-power than they’ve ever had, and at the end of the day, they have to enable business units with a guiding hand. At Mendix, we give business units a central role in the requirements capture and design phases of application development projects, and give techies (IT people no matter where they sit in the organization) the development horsepower to build those applications in a snap. It seems that Dropbox now shares this mindset in the enterprise adoption of their application, by providing business units exactly what they need to achieve their goals, and giving IT the bells and whistles they need to maintain control and governance.

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