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Using shadow IT to your advantage

Divina Paredes | June 25, 2014
CIOs have two options: ignore it, maintain centralised control. Or, become an enabler to the business

Children downloading and buying stuff online that parents may have no control over.

Imagine an organisation where parts of the business are consuming hardware, apps and services the IT department does not know about.

"Welcome to the spooky word of shadow IT."

This is how Kirk Nesbitt, national product manager for cloud and smarter infrastructure at IBM New Zealand, began his presentation at the IBM SolutionsConnect 2014.

He says shadow IT encompasses all technology used by individual employees or departments for business whose use has not been approved or sanctioned by the IT department. People are building their own apps, he says purchasing computing power from vendors you do not have procurement agreements with.

While the phenomenon is now new, the pace of adoption of shadow IT is accelerating because of the cloud, says Nesbitt. He cites Gartner's estimate that by 2015, 35 per cent of IT expenditures will happen outside of the corporate IT budget.

CIOs, he says, have two choices: Adopt it in an unhealthy manner, by trying to ignore it or maintain centralised control. Or, move to become the enabler of the business.

His presentation focuses on how to become the latter.

When IT adapts to support shadow IT, they can influence how it's done.

He starts with a quote from a PwC survey which finds that in half of the top 100 companies, IT controls less than 50 per cent of corporate technology expenditures. These are companies that are in the top quartile of margin and revenue growth and innovation and reported growth of 5 per cent or more in the previous year.

They have got to be doing something right, he states.

There are five ways to go about it: Change the role of IT, provide architecture that supports service centric delivery, have an agile adoption mindset, provide appropriate security controls, and ensure right technical capabilities are in place.

He says some of the things IT can do is to develop innovative products to make it easy and cheaper for employees to do their jobs.

He cites the case of Sesame Workshop, which according to a Computerworld report, saved US$90,000 on file transfer and $20,000 on shipping by adopting consumer technologies in the cloud. YouSendIt service, which costs $50,000 for two years, replaced FTP services that cost $140,000 for the same period. As well, before using Central Desktop, staffers were shipping hard drives. The cloud-based service reduced those costs by $20,000.

He warns, however, of inherent risks of shadow IT.

Higher risk of data loss or leaks is one. Also, when there are problems they will become IT problems. The support, even informally, has costs to IT.

 

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