A vote for shadow IT

A vote for shadow IT

Summary: Shadow IT -- including BYOD, cloud and social -- can be a disruptive force moving organizations forward.


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.

iPhone-2 CNET

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.

Topics: IT Priorities, Cloud, Mobility

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  • IT doesn't get ahead of the curve because they spend too much time

    supporting old tech and trying to keep the status quote of what they already know. In other words, they're more vested in preserving their jobs than in learning what might be a better choice for their business. IBM, DEC, Novell Netware, Microsoft, Cisco, Blackberry to name a few, ring any bells? If you've invested a large amount of time, or a career, in becoming an expert in any of these, is it really surprising people try to hang onto them?
  • The rot goes farther....

    In the companies I've worked for, many times departments not IT are also set on keeping an older, non-functioning process that keeps stability over innovation. The worst ever you can do is to bring in a go-getter leader who merely ignores these departments and bypasses them. You get a small group with no help who isn't connected to the company, and the rest of the company starts doing "busy work" because they are afraid. the leader then hires "program managers", who find out they have the rest in fear, and become little dictators. I've seen an 80% rate of people leaving, as more and more time is taken up with "going away lunches". Yep, the parent corporation finally pulled the plug after losing a boat-load of money, and more importantly, the opportunity to succeed.
    Tony Burzio
  • Legal

    The big problem for companies, at least in Europe, is that the CEO and CIO are responsible for their corporate data and its (mis)use.

    If an employee uses a cloud service or a private mobile device to store corporate data or to access their corporate e-mail account and that service or device is compromised, the CEOand CIO will be legally liable for "allowing" the employee to use that service and losing the data.
  • Manage the BYOD trend successfully

    Well written, Joe. Clearly the benefits of implementing a BYOD strategy far outweigh the challenges. Managing this trend calls for establishing: i) Processes and policies ii) A Mobility blueprint iii) An ongoing support model. As long as adequate safeguards are built to protect the enterprise, challenges such as data security, multi-platform device support, compliance expectations, etc. can be overcome to create a "competitive" advantage in this era of mass disruption. Some details on managing the BYOD trend successfully can be found at http://www.wipro.com/Documents/Consumerization-Managing_The_BYOD_Trend_Successfully.pdf
    Wipro Council for Industry Research