The fact that Shadow IT is also known as cockroach technology probably best sums up how many IT professionals feel about the unsanctioned use of IT products and services. Their position is understandable: a recent survey reported that half of IT managers believe Shadow IT drastically eats bandwidth and slows networks. Given that this technology infestation is probably being used by more than 80% of their customers/users, it’s clear this is a big, and growing problem.
Or opportunity. I was just in Austin for the coming-out party of newly privatized Dell, which said the need to get out from under Wall Street’s quarterly inquisition was driven by the desire to be more agile and innovative. During the 3-day customer conference I got to meet the company’s CIO, Andi Karaboutis, an avid supporter of Shadow IT. “When you work in a technology company and have 110,000 best friends that understand technology well and probably even better than you do, you have to be out there working, listening and determining how you can create even more value for the employees and customers that you serve as opposed to being defensive about owning IT,” she said in a recent interview.
At a CIO event earlier this year most attendees agreed that cloud computing can help them provide business users with technology resources faster than they can do internally, and also agreed that business users often turn to cloud computing out of frustration with a lack of responsiveness by IT departments. With limited resources and a responsibility to protect their organizations, IT has become the Department of No, as in they can’t — or won’t — do whatever end users ask them for, in the timeframe the users want. “IT has to shape up,” and be seen as enablers rather than impediments to change, said Sanjay Mirchandani, an executive vice president at EMC, and its former CIO.
The focus of the IT department, traditionally seen as a gatekeeper, needs to change, according to Aaron Brooks, Director of Innovation at IT solutions and services provider Softchoice. IT’s strategic potential for solving business problems and driving additional business value should be recognized, expectations adjusted. Shadow IT may address an immediate need, but it can also pose an immediate threat. A recent Frost & Sullivan report found that 80% of respondents admitted using Software as a Service (SaaS) applications that have not been approved by their IT departments (percentage-wise, IT staff respondents were the most at fault in these practices), with 18% having experienced a security issue while using SaaS software.
Organizations should look to IT for options and education, to change from no to know.
In addition to teaching IT staff to stop saying “no” and start listening to their user’s underlying needs, CIOs need to establish a governance steering committee in order to evaluate technology requests and the associated risks that come along with each such decision. The output of any governance committee has to be a set of policies that are clear and easy to understand.
The bottom line is that by 2020 up to 90% of IT budgets will be controlled outside of IT, and IT could be obsolete by then. Either IT embraces a new role as the Department of Know, or stumbles along the road to extinction defiantly carrying a No banner.
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons