Dell CIO: pull shadow IT out of the shadows

Stop fretting about shadow IT, and 5 other ways IT can take the lead with business transformation.

IT leaders should stop fretting about shadow IT, and channel that energy into business innovation. Plus, prepare for even closer partnerships with marketing and other departments, to the point that projects overlap.

That's the advice from Adriana Karaboutis, VP and Global CIO of Dell. In a recent Huffington Post interview with Vala Afshar, based on a chat led by fellow ZDNet contributor Michael Krigsman, she outlined the six top imperatives that IT leaders should be addressing:

1. Don't just "enable" transformation, "be" the transformation. Under Karaboutis, IT played a key role in Dell's transition from PC maker to end-to-end IT solutions business. "To help with this she created a business architecture team; not your typical IT steering committee," Afshar relates. "'IT organizations need to ask: "What do we need as an organization to design, market, sell, build, fulfill and service products and have a 360 degree view of our customer?'"

2. Use social media to reach customers. Dell's IT teams have embraced social media as a way to better collaborate and get things done.  "Where typical IT organizations have a six-to-seven-step process for opening up trouble tickets, Karaboutis has people scanning social media sites to see how the network is running; empowering people to solve problems for themselves."  Karaboutis also says that "Twitter saves her time and keeps her current quickly by allowing her to see what is bubbling up, what thoughts are in employees and what many people are saying about a topic of interest. She says that she no longer searches for information, it just comes to her."

3. Stop fretting about shadow IT, and channel that energy into innovation. Look at internal users as partners, experimenting and discovering new solutions to business problems. At Dell, internal customers are being urged to develop their own applications. Of course, dell has a lot of tech-savvy people, but IT leaders of all stripes can learn to essentially drive grassroots solutions out of the shadows. At Dell, "instead of being the organization that is avoided, business partners come to IT and ask for their help and support."

4. Look outside of IT for new ideas. Along with embracing shadow IT, Dell actively partners with internal user groups for new IT innovation. "When Karaboutis reorganized her 5,500 person IT group she created an incubation and user experience team to go out and find the great ideas and then pull in the technologies to fulfill them." Karaboutis also encourages "reverse mentoring," in which summer interns are assigned to mentor IT executives to provide fresh thinking from Millenials.

5. Form alliances with marketing executives. Karaboutis works closely with Dell CMO Karen Quintos, with an understanding that winning custimers is a team effort.  "Together, they created a structured team that reports to both of them and allows the CIO and CMO roles to connect, overlap and intersect on many levels. In this way, IT is able to put the technology in the hands of their business partner and make real progress together."

6. Embrace disruptive technologies such as cloud computing. Karaboutis sees cloud as an "opportunity for IT to re-define itself apart from the more traditional IT roles and emerge as a critical partner to helping the business achieve and fulfill its strategy."

Thumbnail photo: Adriana Karaboutis' LinkedIn site