Imagine you’re a developer with a great idea, so you submit a request to your company’s IT department for server resources. You wait a few days, and get an email asking for more information. Eventually, the request is denied for vague reasons concerning resource allocation priorities, which you suspect really means that someone over in IT doesn’t like the idea.
Alternatively, imagine you’re a developer in a large corporation who has an idea for a new feature. You’re eager to test your idea, so you spin up a server on a public cloud platform, upload some code, run a few tests, download the modified code, and delete the cloud server.
The first scenario is common for enterprise developers, and the second scenario is the direct result of the first. Workers who itch to be productive and innovative are turning to external, unverified services because they feel IT departments are hindering them.
As James Quigley of Techcrunch puts it
“Innovation is occurring at such a rapid pace that employees and business units are no longer content to wait weeks or months for an idea to come to fruition. It is the convergence of overwhelmed IT staff and the availability of off-the-shelf applications and cloud services that is giving rise to Shadow IT”
It’s a situation that gives many IT professionals sleepless nights. Shadow IT removes control from IT departments, and there are good reasons for IT departments to be in control. It’s their job to make sure their organizations aren’t exposed to risk, and having employees upload sensitive data to unvetted services is a risk. From an employee’s perspective, IT stops them getting on with things. From the IT department’s perspective, employees are a huge source of risk.
That said, if employees feel the need to use cloud applications and services to be productive, something is wrong. Yes, it’s the job of IT to protect their organization, but it’s also their job to ensure that employees have the tools they need to get their work done in the most efficient and effective way possible. It’s IT’s job to make sure that employees can innovate in ways that benefit the company.
According to Andrew Froehlich of Informationweek:
“Rather than fight it, it’s high time that IT decision-makers admit our shortcomings and learn to address the reasons that Shadow IT has cropped up in the first place. Your department no longer holds all the cards in terms of servers, endpoint devices, or applications being used in your enterprise.”
IT professionals should, of course, act in their company’s best interest, but sometimes that means taking a hard look at the services and applications that companies prefer, and asking “Why don’t employees feel they can do their best work with what we provide?” Sometimes, there are perfectly good reasons for the choices IT makes, but sometimes, they can do better.
Bob Dimicco is founder of Cisco’s Cloud Consumption Service, which carried out an investigation that discovered enterprise organizations were using 15 - 22 times more cloud applications that had been sanctioned by the IT departments. For Dimicco, the lessons to be learned are clear.
“Employees and lines of business have spoken – they want choice, they want greater speed and agility. IT has lost control here, because organizations, lines of business are saying I can go to the Web and get an application or a service within minutes and start being productive.”
Users are not the enemy. For the most part, they want to do their jobs as quickly and efficiently as possible, and they want the best tools available. It’s in the best interest of their organizations to facilitate those goals.