There's been quite a bit of fretting as of late on the rise of "shadow IT," and perhaps some of the worrying is justified. IT managers worry about shadow IT, and it isn't just about loss of control. It's more of a case of guess who gets the call to go in and clean up the mess and provide support when those iPhones stop connecting to the network, or corporate data dissapears into those under-the-radar cloud applications? Yeah, good ol' IT.
There is another aspect to shadow that doesn't get a lot of attention, though it should. That is, as more consumerist or off-the-radar applications that get introduced into the organization, the more there will be a dependency upon them. And, in the process, a whole bunch of new silos, interfaces, platforms, and disconnected services that increases the weight and scope of the spaghetti architecture, as if there isn't enough already.
Still, one voice of reason out there is saying that all things considered, shadow IT is a good thing. Dave Linthicum, who wrote the book (literally) on enterprise application integration, and lately on cloud, says shadow IT provides juices that help keep organizations -- and their IT departments -- on the cutting edge:
"Although this is akin to anarchy for many in IT, shadow IT in reality pulls the company in more productive directions, which today includes the use of the cloud.... When the business units move forward, they force the hand of corporate IT. Often, IT will stomp out the use of unauthorized cloud-based resources and thus reduce the productivity of that business unit. A better approach would be for IT to get ahead of that technology on behalf of the company, leading versus following those business units into the cloud."
Well said. In addition, there's an element of innovation -- of outright disruption -- that needs to be fostered and encouraged among all parts of the business. Enabling end-users to build or configure their own apps, for example, encourages a culture of innovation -- to be able to quickly test and act on new ideas. And yes, to fail, or to see what doesn't work.
As stated above, the challenge is putting this flexibility into a framework that allows for governance and an architectural approach. That's why it's better to embrace shadow IT -- and the innovation it encourages -- rather than to fight it.