Best Ways To Deal With Shadow IT

Sean Harris

Over the last few years, business units have increasingly been bypassing IT and ordering services directly from external service providers (e.g., SaaS applications and cloud IaaS services). IT has been largely oblivious to this threat, believing that the business will continue to rely on IT for technology services.

We’re now seeing the next stage of shadow IT with business openly bypassing IT, in fact the business model for some external providers is now purposely built around dealing direct with the business rather than IT.

The main reason is that IT is seen by the business as being a roadblock to the agility it requires to deliver products to market quickly. IT needs to reinvent itself and demonstrate how it can be a competitive differentiator for the business.

Let’s look at some of the areas where IT has a natural advantage over shadow IT:

§  They understand the business: The bottom line is that the IT department intimately understands the business and an external service does not. Use this knowledge to IT’s advantage, aligning and working closely with your business.

§  IT is not just a cost center: Following on from the first point, elevate your people to work with the business, demonstrating how technology can be used to benefit the revenue generating side of the business.

§  Become a trusted broker of services: By being a trusted broker of IT services, IT can both centrally manage the costs of external providers and provide internal services when required.

§  Keep the business safe: External service providers understand risk in the context of the services they provide; however, they cannot understand the nuances of risk particular to your business. Capitalize on this “home field” advantage.

Rather than being threatened by shadow IT, CIOs need to embrace it and use it as a catalyst to provide a superior level of service to their business. They need to engage and demonstrate the ways they can help business thrive.

Chances are shadow IT is happening right now at many organisations. No longer content waiting for their companies’ IT help, today’s employees are taking action into their own hands by finding and using their own technology to solve work challenges as they arise—a trend that likely isn’t fading into the shadows anytime soon.

Totally displacing Shadow IT requires building an organization, infrastructure and services portfolio that fulfills the needs of the business as well as—or better than—external organizations can, at a similar or lower cost. In short, build an own in-house private cloud and IT-as-a-Service (ITaaS) organization to run alongside your traditional IT organization and infrastructure. Surely an in-house IT organization should be able to provide services that are a better fit for their own business than an external vendor.

IT service providers often provide a one-size-fits-all service for a variety of businesses in different verticals: commercial, non-commercial and consumer. And in many cases, a business has to make compromises on security and governance that may not be in its best interests. By definition, in-house solutions will comply with security and governance regulations. Additionally, the business will have visibility into the solution, so the benefits are clear.

How does an organization build its services to compete with Shadow IT?

Answering the technical part of this question is easy. There are plenty of vendors out there offering their own technical solutions to help build a private cloud. The challenge is creating the organizational structure, developing in-house skills, and implementing the processes required to run a true ITaaS organization. Most traditional IT organizations lack key skills and organizational components to do this, and IT organizations are not typically structured for this.

For example:

§  To capture current and future common service requirements and convert these into service definitions, product management-type skills and organizational infrastructure are needed.

§  To promote the adoption of these services by the business, product marketing and sales-type functions are required.

These are not typically present in traditional IT organizations. Building this alongside an existing IT organization has three main benefits:

§  It is less disruptive to the traditional organization.

§  It removes the pain of trying to drive long-term incremental change.

§  It will deliver measurable results to the business quicker.

With ITaaS, technology solutions can be deployed as needed, when needed, and bill only for what is used. This allows IT to be a strategic enabler of the business—but allows users of technology services to take control of the process and work at their own speed. The idea has been discussed for more than a decade. But now Software-Defined Data Center technology (SDDC) makes it a reality. An SDDC approach enables the ability to abstract compute, storage, networking and security resources so that virtualized resources can be deployed and managed in a highly automated fashion. This approach allows elasticity and on-demand self- service for all of these resources according to established policies while being able to monitor and measure the entire environment in a more holistic and transparent way. For many organizations, this approach creates a dramatically different outside-in view of IT and business resources. When ITaaS is used effectively, the resulting solution drives transformation through the enterprise and helps IT evolve from a tactical role to strategic one that potentially leads to a competitive advantage.

Making the leap to an IT as a Service approach is tremendously beneficial to organizations. In today’s business environment, disruption and transformation are the foundations for all things digital. How enterprises collect, manage, store and use data is undergoing a profound change. Agility and flexibility are paramount and ITaaS complements, if not, encompasses, other IT initiatives, including IaaS and SaaS which is why a SDDC is critical to this journey. Ultimately, CIOs, CTOs and other senior IT executives must have a deeper understanding of the business and how technology touches employees, business partners, customers and others.

What If external IT services really are better?

It may be discovered after analyzing the true needs of the business that an external provider really can deliver a service that is a better fit for the business needs – and maybe even at a lower cost than the internal IT organization can offer. In this case, a “service broker” function within the IT organization can integrate this service into the ITaaS suite offered by IT to the business far more seamlessly than a traditional IT organization can. The decision should be based on business facts rather than assumptions or feelings.

In the end, customers will always choose the services that best meet their needs and cause them the least amount of pain, be it financial or operational. Working to become your business’ preferred service provider will likely take time and resources, but in the long run, it can mean the difference between a role as a strategic partner to the business or the eventual extinction of the IT department as an antiquated cost center.

The days when shadow IT meant hiding a server under your desk are long gone. Today’s shadow IT has become much more sophisticated and central to the business. In the software defined era, where traditional businesses are being challenged and a new approach to align IT with the business is needed to compete. We’re on the cusp of the next big technology era in Asia where IT will adapt to the speed of business and drive business outcomes with a software defined enterprise - and many Indian organizations are already on this journey.