Robot Hugs

Don’t Ban Or ‘Tolerate’ Shadow IT — Actively Embrace It

Robot HugsNo doubt there were earlier examples, but for me, Shadow IT — the unsanctioned use of IT products and services (AKA cockroach technology) —  began with the introduction of the IBM PC and business software like spreadsheets, databases, and word processing. Then Apple’s Macintosh started creeping in, mainly among the creative/right-brain-types, and IT began its long slide into the No-Side, as in “You can’t have it because we can’t/won’t support it”. Fast-forward 30 years and the consumerization of IT is now a fact of life, and IT must change from saying “no” to Shadow IT to know how best to leverage it.

Because Shadow IT tends to be unsanctioned, getting accurate numbers on its use by the individuals, teams, and business units that are embracing it are difficult, but there are strong indicators of its growing popularity. A PwC survey found that 50% of IT managers admit that half of their budget is wasted on managing Shadow IT, which results in an inability to track, manage, and eliminate unapproved software and devices, as well as drastically eating bandwidth, slowing networks, and increasing the IT financial/resource burden.

A recent software-as-a-service (SaaS) study reported that over 80% of organizations are using some form of remote access app. Google’s suite of personal productivity apps is king in the enterprise, with Google Calendar appearing in 83% of businesses, Google Docs in 80%, and Google Drive in 75%.

Another new study reports that companies are achieving greater productivity and higher employee satisfaction from their Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies. Thanks to the ease of access to SaaS applications, even non-technical employees feel comfortable and entitled to choose their software — and they are doing so in droves, fueling a BYOA (Bring Your Own Application) revolution, according to the survey.

A report showed that a majority of the estimated $1.3 trillion in untapped value from social technologies lies in “improved communications and collaboration within and across enterprises.” Gartner says by 2020 90% of IT budgets will be controlled outside of IT, and Forrester says IT could be obsolete by then.

While there are many who agree with the PwC findings, there are others that are equally fervent supporters of the changes happening in the enterprise. Jeanne Beliveau-Dunn, VP and GM of Learning@Cisco, said the Shadow IT revolution is one of the engines driving the growth and relevance of IT. Rather than being on the defensive about users adopting consumer technology, Dell CIO Andi Karaboutis says CIOs should embrace it assertively. “You have to understand why that shadow IT came in to begin with… All of a sudden, the business comes to you instead of finding shadow IT.”

The bottom line, notes Gartner Research VP Dave Cappuccio, is that if IT is to respond to this form of Shadow IT they must pair with business partners and work together as part of innovation labs (often driven by the business and not IT), which can become the integration point where IT experience and business innovation can come together. Otherwise IT organizations can decide that their real value is to support and maintain a flexible infrastructure that supports rapid innovation by the business, and just let 1,000 flowers bloom. Either way the new Shadow IT, which we should now call Business IT, is here to stay.

Image credit: Ben Husmann (flickr)

About the author
Steve Wexler
Steve is a proficient IT journalist, editor, publisher, and marketing communications professional. For the past two-plus decades, he has worked for the world’s leading high-technology publishers. Currently a contributor to Network Computing, Steve has served as editor and reporter for the Canadian affiliates of IDG and CMP, as well as Ziff Davis and UBM in the U.S. His strong knowledge of computers and networking technology complement his understanding of what’s important to the builders, sellers and buyers of IT products and services.