Brian Lillie, chief information officer at data-center company Equinix Inc., had a salesman with a password problem.

Remembering the 15 separate logins to use the company’s tools proved challenging, the salesman told Lillie, so he was writing them all down. That rendered them pointless if the paper were to be lost or stolen. So Lillie started testing programs to let people use a single password for everything, and implemented one across the business a couple of years ago. The CIO’s role is changing quickly in a world where the spread of mobile devices and Internet-based programs is resulting in a more employee-led approach to new technology. Companies’ top information-technology executives now must track the use of workers’ own devices and applications and decide which of these programs to roll out companywide. That’s a break from the past, when they had more control over evaluating what software and hardware to buy before it reached the staff.

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