Shadow IT Proves Tech Leaders Need to Shift Their Focus

By: Richard Berger

March 7, 2016

There’s a tug-of-war happening in today’s business technology environment, between traditional IT roles and end users of technology. The recent scandal over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of private email service and home server instead of IT resources approved by the organization perfectly highlights the struggle, which is fundamentally centered on how companies get the most from their technology and their IT departments.

The Clinton case exemplifies the challenge many companies face regarding “shadow IT,” or the use of unsanctioned technology by employees in the organization. With technology integrated into nearly every aspect of the modern business environment, and regulation regarding technology growing, consistency and control of IT resources by company IT professionals is paramount. At the same time, the consumerization of technology, from the BYOD trend to familiar and easy-to-use cloud services such as Dropbox, mean business unit leaders and individual employees are now more comfortable taking the reins to define their own IT environment. At the end of the day, if the organization can’t meet users’ technology demands, employees will go to shadow IT for a solution.

At the core, this isn’t really an issue of technology – it’s more about shifting organizational structure and roles. The end goal of both users and IT teams is the same: to get the best technology in the hands of employees to enhance business efficiency and support the bottom line. But the path to get there can be unclear, and this uncertainty can spell disruption for the business. So how do companies clarify the role of IT departments while simultaneously delivering the cutting-edge tools business unit leaders demand?

It all hinges on changing the role of the IT department and the CIO/CTO, in response to user demand. This means transitioning the mindset of IT teams away from technical support for hardware and software, and toward a new role as brokers of user-demanded cloud services, according to Rightscale’s 2015 State of the Cloud report. Experts at Verizon, Deloitte and others agree, suggesting that the new role for the IT department is as a driver of business efficiency and a powerful value-add to the company’s bottom line.

It’s not an easy shift to make, to be sure. Companies must look differently at the skills needed to succeed in IT, the balance of proprietary systems and outsourced technology services and how to provide more choice to business unit leaders. But the literature suggests that companies that realize the greatest benefits from technology in the future, will be those that can shift the IT department mindset from tactical implementation of technology to strategic brokering of services, all driving toward enhancing the business bottom line.