It used to be called “Rogue IT.” These days it is often referred to as “Shadow IT.” In the future it could very likely be called “Dispersed IT” or “Federated IT.”
What is it? It is the phenomenon where individuals and lines of businesses embark upon IT projects without the involvement of IT. It could be as simple as using apps like Dropbox to share and collaborate documents or as complex as going out and buying multiple cloud based apps like Salesforce or Netsuite.
Last week I was at conference where I met several CIOs and IT organization leaders and this was the topic of a very lively discussions between people who see and live this phenomenon everyday. One of the CIOs I met had this to say – “I had a very emotional reaction when I found out that our supply chain team had gone and built their own application to ferry data between different partners and I only found out about it when the application had an outage.”
Typically this is true for almost all of shadow IT. You find out about the existence of shadow IT only when it has an issue or worse, when it has a security breach. While some CIOs try to fight this phenomenon, resistance is often futile. A credit card and/or a small op-ex budget is all you need these days to get a new cloud based application and instead of fighting it, a number of CIOs are choosing to embrace it.
In fact, why just embrace it, go a step further, be a partner to the lines of business and empower it. That’s right. Be the enabler of shadow IT because your company may actually benefit from it in more ways than one but as you embrace them, help your lines of businesses do the right thing by providing value so that next time they would come to you to seek your advice before subscribing to another app.
There are three ways to enable shadow IT so that it doesn’t become a burden to your company – Integration, Data Management and Security. Let’s look at each one of these.
1. Integration – As the apps continue to proliferate, so does the need and complexity to integrate and instead of trying to do point-to-point integrations, establish a relationship with an industry Center of Excellence (COE) on integration that has an established model to do integrations in a managed services model. This way, instead of hiring more and more developers to build integration you leverage the industry experts’ experience and have a predictable cost model that scales up and down with your needs. You can then offer this to the lines of businesses as and when they add their own new apps. Better still, consider choosing a Data Platform as a Service (dPaaS) solution so you manage the data while you integrate the end points.
2. Data Management – As lines of businesses go about subscribing to and hooking up more apps, the age old need to consolidate data and run reports on them continue to rise as well. In our discussions this week, one of the CIOs mentioned that they counted more than 15 instances of Salesforce in the entire organization. When the CMO needs one view of the customer, that is when the data management question arises. This is truly where IT can provide most value. If you have a data-centric strategy for integration this now becomes a lot more manageable.
3. Security – Did your lines of business ever consider the security of the data while subscribing to apps? Most likely not. Help your business partners by not only guiding them through procurement best practices, it is also offer a Network Operations Center (NOC) to help identify not only issues with any applications but also proactively navigate through security issues.
Something else to consider would be to try and have your team work with the lines of businesses to understand their need and provide advice and best practices on how to go about solving for them in the best possible way – with or without subscribing to new cloud apps.
At the end of the day you will be helping your company to innovate faster and if you get the integration strategy right by making it data-centric you would help your company innoculate from several issues and very likely be a catalyst of turning “shadow IT” to your “federated IT.”