Successful Companies Embrace Shadow IT

Businesses move quickly, and those that make missteps along the way or fail to adapt to the times rarely go unscathed. Consider the fate of the original 12 companies listed in the Dow. While General Electric is still an independent company, most of the others have been acquired by larger companies or have vanished altogether.

This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Network World to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter's approach.

shadow IT

Businesses move quickly, and those that make missteps along the way or fail to adapt to the times rarely go unscathed. Consider the fate of the original 12 companies listed in the Dow. While General Electric is still an independent company, most of the others have been acquired by larger companies or have vanished altogether.

Some of the companies failed to compete effectively; others failed to adapt to the mega-trends of their times. Sometimes the trends move relatively quickly, like the impact of the automobile, radio and television. Few, however, have been as disruptive as software, which is dramatically changing how business is done.

Software has already transformed the music, media and book industries. Now it's rapidly reimagining nearly every business, large or small. Technology entrepreneur Marc Andreessen, in a 2011 Wall Street Journal column, "Why Software Is Eating the World,"examined how software delivered as services is disrupting most every industry.

[ IN DEPTH:What's wrong with SaaS?A

ANALYSIS:Taking SaaS to the next level]

In the time since that was published, Andreessen has been largely proven correct. And the trend, if anything, is accelerating.

Consider the fact that individual employees, managers and business units all increasingly becoming small IT departments as they leverage software (often delivered through cloud services) for every aspect of their work. Instead of turning to IT, they're building or buying what they need on their own to get the productivity apps, storage, collaboration tools, or whatever is necessary to do their jobs.

This trend comes in many different names: shadow IT, rogue IT the consumerization of IT. But the label doesn't matter. What matters is understanding the impact these actions have on IT as they work to stay aligned with their mandate to be the enterprise's central guide when it comes to managing infrastructure, applications and data.

By 2015, according to the research firm Gartner in its 2012 predictions, 35% of IT expenditures for most organizations will be managed outside of the IT department's budget. This shows workers are craving rapid access to infrastructure, applications and data they need to innovate and compete. And they're trying to create their own pockets of IT innovation while doing so. This may help speed access to applications and data, but it's also risky, as it increases enterprise IT costs over time through loss of centralized buying power, loss of governance over enterprise intellectual property, and increased security and compliance concerns.

How do IT teams successfully harness the innovation their internal customers are trying to realize while also obtaining the necessary level of governance over shadow IT systems growing within?

It's an important question. After all, the risks and the opportunity costs associated with shadow IT are high. For instance, with so much data siloed, workers can't find and share information as easily as they once did. Often, the applications they build or procure themselves won't work on all of the devices they should. And critical identity and access control systems break down as workers access applications outside enterprise identity management systems. That brings up another important point when we discuss shadow IT: security.

[ SHADOW IT:Onetime hidden, often hated, but well worth embracing]

With shadow IT, data that the enterprise would rather see protected is more likely to end up on systems that aren't as secure as they need to be, and visibility is lost into where highly confidential or regulated information is flowing. This obviously increases the chances of a data breach and regulatory fines. It also makes it difficult for the enterprises to optimize the value they're getting from their IT investments.

IT leaders need to find ways to harness the motivations that drive shadow IT. To do this, more enterprises are turning their users to cloud services that provide security and swift access to the applications and data they need -- wherever they choose to work and on just about any device.

The best way to achieve this is through modern cloud app platforms. These platforms provides a fast, agile and affordable way to deliver applications and services directly to users. Unlike cloud infrastructure services, that focus on the "plumbing" that developers need to run applications, modern cloud app platforms furnish all the infrastructure necessary to develop and run applications as a service, as well as a suite of tools and services to enable the rapid development of apps by anybody -- professional developers, ISVs or business users.

The good news for the CIO's office is that such modern cloud app platforms furnish all of the benefits mentioned above and still maintain much-needed governance over data and systems so crucial for security and regulatory mandates. It's about embracing the motivations that drive innovation throughout the organization, not just the IT department. A true modern cloud app platform delivers the agility business demands, and the governance IT requires.

That's just one example of how modern cloud app platforms enable IT departments to help their internal customers meet the ferocious demand for applications and services, unify access to data and increase the speed at which they can do it. In fact, IT departments can forget their fears of being lost in the dark by shadow IT, because they'll be at the center of driving the value and innovation businesses need to thrive.

This story, "Successful Companies Embrace Shadow IT" was originally published by Network World.

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