Another view: Shadow IT has little to do with BYOD

Bringing devices to work does not create a separate IT platform, and shadow IT digs far deeper into the enterprise than smartphones.

There's been quite a bit of consternation about both shadow IT and bring your own device (BYOD) lately, and often, these two situations are used interchangeably. But BYOD doesn't necessarily create shadow IT, and shadow IT doesn't arise out of people bringing their smartphones to work. Shadow IT is something much deeper.

IT worker2-by Michael Krigsman
Photo: Michael Krigsman

That's the view of Rob England (aka "IT Skeptic"), who recently posted this lucid statement on shadow IT, which I think deserves an airing. Here is what he had to say:

"There seems to be a wide-spread misapprehension that Shadow IT is exemplified by BYOD, that staff bringing their own personal devices is somehow making a big hole in IT's control of core information processing.

"I think it is self-absorbed to equate personal computing support with IT support. Your own personal digital experience is only one part of supporting the information and technology of the business. BYOD and SYOD (support your own device) are only one piece of the puzzle, and a small one. Good on them for taking a high-cost low-value problem away from IT.

"People who think this way need to step away from their own petty daily computing problems and see information form the organisational perspective. The REAL Shadow IT is when the business units start creating branding, or engaging customers, or exposing or processing data. That's an utterly different issue which I don't see being discussed in so many 'Shadow IT' conversations."

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England hits it dead-on with this analysis. The arrival of smartphones often allows for communications and access to service that help people do their jobs better -- including (and especially) IT staff members.

The poster child for shadow IT is marketing. Marketing executives are commanding technology budgets just as big as IT departments. A good term for this may also be parallel IT departments. Marketing develops and uses its own cloud-based CRM tools, and commissions outside contractors to create mobile apps and interfaces to support various promotional activities. I recently spoke with several marketing VPs who have done just that -- in pursuit of ways to better engage and draw in customers via electronic channels, just as England mentions above.

The other question is whether this poses a threat of some kind to the livelihoods or opportunities of IT leaders and professionals. It can be argued that marketing's embrace of digital resources means a lot of tech employment opportunities among service providers and consultants. At the same time, internal IT departments are already stretched thin, with ever-growing workloads and commitments to keep things up, secure and accessible.