Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Shadow IT: Competing with IT, or Complementary to IT

When there is no maturity in the technology core, IT will find it difficult to meet the digital challenges. 

Shadow IT generally refers to the systems and solutions built and used inside organizations without IT approval, and there’s mixed feedback upon it. So how should CIOs respond today? Is shadow IT competing with IT, or actually complementary to IT services?

It is not about competing. Shadow IT does exist, but to what level depends on the IT department itself. You have to recognize that the consumerization of IT will lead to issues. When there is no maturity in the technology core, IT will find it difficult to meet the digital challenges . Meanwhile, at the cloud era, restless shadow IT will sprout up or end users will go out for shopping cloud-based IT services on their own. So this is going to exist till there is maturity and understanding of IT technologies among its stakeholders. And the IT leaders have to work with business and stakeholders to understand and fulfill their needs, to absorb and brighten the shadow IT within the IT.

Why does shadow IT exist? Even it is competition; this is certainly not the first time that IT organizations have faced 'competition'. There is nothing new under the sun! Why did these things happen? Because the new options are often more flexible and cost effective than the centrally provided IT services - as more often the case, monopoly suppliers have rested on their laurels, becoming service inefficient or cost ineffective in the absence of competition and business pressure to improve. As the best IT organizations do seek to ensure continuous improvement of services and costs, and collaboration with the business areas involved where it makes better sense for them to procure specialist services locally & securely.

It is the battle to keep IT capabilities relevant for the business. When shall you do it yourselves and when do you go outside and broker services into the enterprise. Hence, it is essential for the business to define what are the key foundational elements that require the utmost rigor and discipline for IT to manage exclusively. For everything else that remains, IT should play an active role in driving and encouraging innovation through the organization:

(1) there is a lot of technical talent combined with business subject matter expertise outside of IT and it would be a shame not to leverage it 

(2) IT has limited bandwidth and cannot respond to all the business needs on a timely basis 

(3) enables local experimentation/quick learning experiences that are local 

(4) if you don't encourage it, or take an active role in training users, it will happen anyway, without knowing about it by IT or being done in the most effective manner. 

(5) it helps to build relationships, and increases the exchange of knowledge across the teams and departments. The evaluation process needs to be done regularly, as some of the capabilities developed through the organization may become fundational - and thus require further hardening at that time.

Shadow IT exists for reasons, some objective; some subjective; it can provide productivity and agility, but there’re risks in it as well, therefore IT shall build cohesive strategy, work closely with business to continue to improve services, brighten up shadow IT, embrace the newer solutions and give options to the business, as information continues to be a growing asset for organizations, ensuring that information is delivered reliably, accurately, and securely is a critical factor to success.


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