Shadow IT is creeping out of the shadows, and it’s changing the role and place of IT, many will tell you for the worst. But is it really that scary?
You may have seen the term recently popping up in blogs or articles, but might not be totally clear on what it means. Well, simply put, it’s when employees bypass corporate IT and handle their own tech needs and issues. When downloading a program is as easy as clicking a button, why wait till IT finds the time to clear it first? More and more employees are asking themselves this question and finding the answer is to click away.
The problem is how widespread the issue is becoming. Back in 2012, Gartner predicted that by 2015, 35% of enterprise IT expenditures for most organizations will be managed outside the IT department’s budget. GigaOm also sees the same future. To the point where they think that an estimate “that shadow IT is expected to become 90% of all IT purchases by 2020” is too conservative.
The predictions are really making IT professionals squirm. Shadow IT might mean that their job is slowly becoming obsolete. As GigaOm unforgivingly points out in the same article: who needs IT when you can handle everything on your own?
With great power comes…
Users are empowered these days with the ability to choose the tools they work with. Outside resources are seductive: they are easy and economical to acquire. However, almost no company employee will be looking at the big picture when they download a special software for their department.
IT is responsible for taking this big picture into account, and it’s no walk in the park. First, there are huge security risks that employees create by using unscreened software. When, for example, a developer uses an outside platform he may extract corporate data and move it outside the firewall. Conversely, a developer may create data in an outside resource and import it into the firewall without proper checks.
Second, when IT is taken out of the purchasing process, employees run the risk of choosing sub-par software. Or the users may not be configuring this software properly to align with corporate best practices. Shadow IT can also result in unnecessary costs.
For IT workers, a huge issue that arises is the question of their value within the organization. This is an issue we’ve addressed before because its becoming ever more persistent as we move toward more and more technological freedom for company employees.
It’s not all bad
Shadow IT doesn’t necessarily have to mean a whole bunch of out-of-work CIO’s and extensive security breaches. There’s also a lot of opportunity to take advantage of.
Shadow IT can free up time for the ever-swamped IT department. When employees are taking care of their own minor issues, admins and managers alike can spend more time on big-picture problems and planning. Harking back to finding their new place within the business, IT leadership can move into a role of guidance and value-creation while focusing on managing risk.
IT has a unique opportunity to redefine its role as an educator and policymaker, while helping employees rather than hindering their choice of work tools. Only time will tell definitively where IT is going in the next few years. As shadow IT is here to stay, will you push it further into the dark, or bring it out into the light?
How do you think CIOs and IT management should handle shadow IT? Tell us in the comments below!