A progressive approach to Shadow IT can empower enterprises and their people.
Instead of denying this development, or working against it, let’s embrace it and bring Shadow IT out into the light. A progressive approach to Shadow IT can empower enterprises and their people while allowing central IT to focus on the things where it can add the most value.
Technology is pervasive in our lives and most of us have been conditioned to buy, sell, download, share and interact with the stroke of a few keys or the swipe of a finger. Whether it’s the e-commerce sites, social networks or smart devices we daily use, nearly everyone has high expectations for technology. We demand functionality, utility, speed and convenience. And if a particular technology doesn’t meet our needs, we find a different version – there are just so many options available.
Today we bring these rich expectations from our personal lives into our offices. Everyone is a technologist to some degree, savvy enough to know when there’s a better way to get something done. That raises the bar for IT groups and puts them in a potentially “no win” situation.
+ ALSO ON NETWORK WORLD IT pros share blame for shadow IT problem +
Within most enterprises, it’s just not feasible for a centralized IT function to be cost effective and move quickly enough to satisfy the needs of all its constituents, as these needs are often too disparate, specialized or dynamic. It’s also not possible for IT to be the single source of technology innovation.
In today’s information economy, the innovation needed to continuously adapt and serve constantly changing customer needs must come from the whole organization. Furthermore, in cases where a particular technology has been commoditized, it’s hard for centralized IT to beat the economics and lead times of readily available cloud solutions which knowledgeable users can find on their own.
These are some of the reasons why Shadow IT exists and continues to grow. So what is an IT organization to do?
If IT views itself primarily as the group which dictates and owns all the technology, it will eventually be viewed as a relic of the past and a “blocker” that just gets in the way. To stay mission critical, the IT of today – and the future – must be as nimble as its end users, and drive results by empowering the enterprise and its people. Of course, the conundrum for most IT groups is how to do this without exposing the enterprise to greater risks and costs.
Re-thinking how we view Shadow IT might be the answer.
A fundamental aspect of mainstreaming Shadow IT is the acceptance that there is not going to be uniformity, for uniformity is a losing battle to fight for most large enterprises, and one that can stifle innovation.
That doesn’t mean I’m advocating for an “anything goes” approach either. The best results will come by creating a culture of conformity through transparency, partnership and collaboration. Such a culture creates a virtuous circle, where users feel empowered to make some decisions, but at the same time, they recognize the value IT brings and willingly want to share with IT what they are doing and why they are doing it.
Not only does this strengthen IT’s standing in an organization, it also strengthens IT’s ability to manage aspects of IT which cannot and must not be optional: information security, compliance with regulatory requirements and leveraging the purchasing power of the organization.
A great example of how a culture of transparency, partnership and collaboration can optimize results is whenever multiple groups in the same organization are looking to achieve the same goals. If these groups proactively share their desire with central IT, the latter can work on behalf of the entire enterprise to assist in finding the best solution, share existing solutions in different parts of the organization and negotiate better terms and volume pricing if applicable. The key here is for IT to build a culture that makes colleagues feel comfortable to share these ideas and requests with IT.
IT should be perceived as a business partner, not as a service organization, and Shadow IT as the empowering ally it is when it is supported by the right culture and environment. An innovative organization will only thrive in an environment where everyone has some freedom while working towards the same goals. Let’s bring Shadow IT into the light and call it what it really is, an engine for enterprise-wide empowerment and innovation that can accelerate the business.
Silberstein is Chief Technology Officer at SunGard.