Shadow IT: Friend or Foe?
It’s a concept that has stood the test of time: the frenemy. Not quite a trustworthy ally, but not quite an all-out rival. If we look back in history we’ll find these pairings existed long before the oxymoron was coined – Tesla and Edison, Microsoft and Apple, Jefferson and Adams, even Siskel and Ebert, if you can believe it.
And in today’s modern enterprise the title of frenemy goes to Shadow IT.
More than 80 percent of IT pros said their end users have gone behind their back to set up unapproved cloud services, with a whopping 40 percent reporting their users "going rogue" five or more times. There are plenty of reasons to see the enemy when one of your business units (e.g., marketing or accounting) goes rogue and launches an unauthorised Shadow IT initiative. Whether it’s a subscription to an online storage offering or a full-blown new SaaS launch or a department head approved BYOD (Bring your old device) or BYOS (Bring your own software), we’ve all seen how these things can quickly become counter-productive: wasting time and resources, introducing solutions that can’t be supported and creating security risks. And yet… the reality is that Shadow IT is here to stay. Given the ease with which these projects can be launched, they simply aren’t going to disappear. It’s the rare organisation that is going to implement the kind of draconian control that would be necessary to stamp them out. And is that really such a good idea anyway? If you are seeing Shadow IT in your organisation, engage with it. Address whatever serious deficiencies there may be, but also look for the motivation behind it and make that work to your advantage.
Shadow IT was a hot topic in the discussions that took place at an IDG forum on Cloud Transformation that included Simone Brunozzi, Vice President and Chief Technologist for Hybrid Cloud at VMware; David Grimes, Chief Technology Officer at Navisite and Warren Perlman, CIO of Ceridian, the global human capital management technology company.
All three discussed the ins and outs of Shadow IT from their different perspectives.
Simone Brunozzi, for example, sees Shadow IT as essentially a wake-up call for traditional IT organizations. “It means that the business needs to do those things faster and you’re not helping them. That’s why they’re doing shadow stuff. They are actually saving you, because they’re telling you, ‘There is a better way.’”
Another big reason to embrace Shadow IT is that there’s a good chance it’s going to land back on your plate at some point anyway. According to an IDG survey, 23% of cloud spending was being funded outside of IT, but at the same time the survey also found that 45% of those externally-funded projects ultimately end up coming back to IT for a variety of different reasons, including monitoring, management and security of these services.
Dave Grimes (@DGrimesCloud) of Navisite sees this statistic as another sign of how today’s IT departments are transforming to more of a “service broker model,” focused on governance and bringing together externally-provided solutions, rather than a classic, full-service “keep-the-lights-on entity.”
Warren Perlman, CIO of Ceridian, took this further and pointed out that Shadow IT and all that it represents is redefining the CIO office around three different areas of focus: an internal client-facing component (support for desktops, telephones, mobile, etc.); a shared services component (the server and network environments) and a large-scale operations component.
In Perlman’s view, when broken down this way, the IT operation becomes more flexible and able to adapt more quickly—able to bring more of that Shadow IT back into the organisation more quickly.
I guess I’d have to say the biggest advantage a frenemy is that they can be your biggest asset – pushing your limits to achieve something greater.
For more on the evolution of IT and building the IT organisation of tomorrow, watch the entire IDG Forum webcast now.