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Shadow IT – Get over it, and Work with your Business

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Shadow-IT-Get-over-it-and-work-with-your-businessIt’s not a matter of if your organization is leveraging Shadow IT, but rather to what end? To clarify, we’re talking about how shadow IT applies to money spent outside IT’s budget.

The popularization of the term “shadow IT” comes and goes. Recently, there’ve been reports of the former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton setting up her email to accommodate both personal and business emails so that she could leverage one phone rather than two.

Tweet this: It’s not a matter of if your organization is leveraging Shadow IT, but rather to what end?

In situations like these, depending on who you ask, there are justifications for shadow or rogue IT. But here’s the thing: only IT refers to it as “shadow” or rogue. The enablement of technology for use in the business is referred to by your users as “getting things done.” After all, from the business perspective they aren’t looking to sneak something past the IT department. They’re simply looking to leverage technology to achieve their business outcomes. For IT to characterize the business as some sinister character that twists their moustache and wrings their hands to find ways to disrupt them is about as far off as it gets.

One fact remains – your business is already using technology for their needs, even if the IT department isn’t the supplier.

The first question that gets asked is, “how do you know if the business is using technology outside of IT in the first place.” The answer, from my experience, is by stumbling upon it. I have had escalation for application issues which were clearly not in the IT portfolio of services. The caller, who is genuinely confused that we are confused, outlines that they have been using this “small” application for some time but since it hasn’t been updated since it was installed they are now seeing issues. They are quick to point out that our latest system update made it far worse.

First, let’s agree on one thing. Your business needs to be supported to achieve its business outcomes. Despite how you feel about what you might call shadow, set that aside. You need to work with your business to help them reach their goals.

Second, despite what relationships existed before, you need to foster a culture of partnership with your business. Understanding what they need is essential. You may already be asking yourself, “how is IT being increasingly left out of new technology decisions in a time where technology needs by the business are greatly increasing?

IT has been left on the sidelines because they forgot that they’re meant to work with the business. This wasn’t intentional (hopefully), but over time IT drifted away from their trusted advisor role. Sometimes external providers are able to provide a service that IT couldn’t  for the right price point. In this case, while IT is not the service provider, we still need to ensure our business is protected as it pertains to the purchase. These applications should be looked at from support, security, and cost perspectives as they’re necessary to give the business the overall picture it needs to make long term decisions.

Tweet this: IT has been left on the sidelines because they forgot that they’re meant to work with the business

We are quick to forget that we, as an IT department, leverage vendors to provide services for our customers today also. Similarly, external providers are marketing their services to your business directly. The problem is that IT may not be informed that the business is already shopping around and may be left out of initial “proof of concept” discussions when the business is looking for potential vendors.

How did this happen? Some, from a business perspective, might say that IT isn’t nimble enough to keep up with their needs. As a result the business felt that getting things done on their own time and money would allow them to do what needs to be done.

But all it really comes down to better communication between people.

To remedy this IT needs to get involved with the business on a strategic level. I have long thought that the ability for IT to market itself to our business is lacking. We want to help our business by protecting them while they look for services that will enable them to get a competitive edge.

After all if the business fails, the IT department fails.

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RyanOgilvieRyan Ogilvie is currently an IT Service Management consultant in Calgary. His background as a practitioner in various streams of Service Management inspired him to write about his musings in this blog – Service Management Journey. He strongly believes that no matter what framework is leveraged the end goal is to align with business outcomes for an excellent customer experience.