We’ve all observed huge growth in shadow IT. What’s driving this growth in shadow IT? As a reminder, shadow IT is hardware or software within an enterprise that is not supported by the organization’s central IT department.

The growth in shadow IT is being driven by many developments and the emergence of new services. These trends are enabling proactive business units to pursue attractive application opportunities without involving the IT department. Can you leverage these trends for exciting business benefits in your organization or will they lead to expensive boondoggles?

Impatient end-users

Impatient end-users frequently desire immediate access to hardware or software without going through the necessary steps to obtain the technology through corporate IT channels.

This desire is triggered by a need for a new application that can support exploiting a quickly emerging business opportunity. When these end-users are supported by tech-savvy managers with corporate credit cards, shadow IT, scary or innovative, starts.

Lower cost development project

Some business units operate with the perception that a shadow IT project will cost significantly less than a formal project run by the IT department and still deliver the same functionality.
This perception is typically not true because lots of costs become invisible in a shadow IT project. These invisible costs include staff time, computing resources, travel, and software licensing.
This misperception is often reinforced by failing to estimate a variety of real project tasks such as requirements gathering, adequate software testing, implementation, and people change management. Nonetheless, this lower-cost misperception drives many shadow IT projects.

Increasing cloud computing capability

Cloud computing is a general term for the delivery of hosted computing services over the Internet. Examples of rapidly growing cloud applications include: Dropbox, Gmail, Google Docs, Office 365, Outlook.com, and Salesforce.

When individual workgroups acquire these cloud computing services, a shadow IT service, that often delivers exciting benefits, begins.

Top-notch SaaS software packages

There are many cross-industry and industry-specific Software as a Service (SaaS) software packages. Examples include: asset tracking and management, eCommerce, ERP, external data management, governance, risk management, and compliance management (GRC).

When individual business units operate these SaaS software packages on their own, they are using a shadow IT service. Indeed, the vendors offering SaaS software packages typically go to considerable lengths to sell, configure and implement their applications without any involvement or interference from what vendors often see as the scary IS department.

Capable software development vendors

When end-users hire capable software development vendors here or offshore without the involvement of the IT organization, a custom shadow IT application will be the result.
This situation can be hugely successful because:

  1. The IT department doesn’t have to defend the vendor or the price and isn’t overburdened.
  2. End-users in the business acquire access to the functionality they want.

This situation can deteriorate rapidly when the vendor performance declines, or major data integration points create the need for lots of involvement of the IT organization.

Capable end-user software development tools

End-user software development tools have become more capable. When these tools are used by energetic end-users, a shadow IT application will emerge.

All will continue well until the leading end-user is promoted, loses interest or is head-hunted by another company. Then, when the application crashes. a scary crisis will erupt because no one has enough knowledge to restart the application. The crisis will drag on because the IT department management will understandably decline to take over support of this informally developed and likely unstable application.

Slow, ponderous, overloaded IT departments

Many IT departments have built processes over the years that ensure application robustness, high availability, configuration management, superior security, reliable backup and recovery.

IT departments typically insist on a formal, rigid project approval process and a structured approach to project delivery that significantly reduces project risk. IT departments are also tied to an annual budgeting cycle that often means projects rarely start in under a year from the first proposal.

Unfortunately, these processes add elapsed time to the development of new or enhanced applications. When business units don’t want to wait, a new shadow IT service is often the result.

These drivers of shadow IT services and projects help organizations address the growth in exciting IT opportunities. What do you think are reasonable ways to strike a balance between sometimes scary shadow IT and formal IT at your organization?



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