​Hillary Clinton takes shadow IT mainstream

Hillary Rodham Clinton is in one big email mess, but if you zoom out and look at her as any other employee you have a leading example of shadow IT at play.

Hillary Rodham Clinton reportedly ran her own email server out of her house and now is in the middle of political firestorm. For our purposes, Clinton has provided us with the most high-profile case of shadow IT practices. And the first lesson of shadow IT is that the techies aren't going to push around the top execs.

For the folks in business tech, the concept of shadow IT isn't exactly new. You're the CIO. Your other C-level peers have had their own cloud services provisioned for years. Developers have Amazon's cloud on a corporate Amex. It started with an innocuous printer under a desk. Then went to a server. Then smartphones to cloud services. People bring their own devices, apps and business practices with them to work.

Hell, the poor CIO is just finding out about some of these things.

Enter Clinton. According to the Associated Press, Clinton ran her own email as a Cabinet-level official. Enter records laws and all sorts of concerns. On the bright side, Clinton at least wasn't using a public email server. She at least earns some techie props for that.

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Now let's strip away all the politics, sniping and legality over Clinton's email practices. What you have is shadow IT for official business and a State Department without the IT clout to stop it. You could argue with all the NSA snooping that Clinton's own email infrastructure was warranted.

Boil this down to Clinton as an employee and you have the following.

  1. Clinton was a top exec and those folks often get to push IT around. How do you think the iPad and iPhone became an enterprise juggernaut? You guessed it. The CEO wanted one.
  2. The email infrastructure Clinton ran was techie, but how many of you are conducting work on personal accounts? Thought so. You may not have federal records laws, but you're ignoring IT policies almost daily.
  3. Security issues often are tossed aside for convenience. For Clinton it was a homemade email server. For the rest of us it's a personal cloud storage account.

In the end, the Clinton email flap will play out for months. There will be hearings and non-stop election coverage about it. Just keep in mind what you're witnessing is shadow IT at a grand scale.

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