My name is Ben Worthen. I wrote the article you’re now reading, and I turn to the shadow IT department frequently.
I’m not a troublemaker. I’m not trying to harm CIO or CXO Media in any way. On the contrary, I’m trying to make myself more productive. I have a list of projects that just keeps growing, and I need technology that will help me get things done quickly. More often than not, I find what I need on the Internet.
About a year ago, I started forwarding all of my work e-mail to my Gmail account. Our work e-mail system is Lotus Notes, and while it has a Web-based interface, the design is clunky and the URL is hard to remember. But that’s not the main reason I took matters into my own hands. E-mail has become my de facto document repository. People send me all sorts of information (reports, PDFs, attachments) that I constantly need to refer to. Gmail is a better document repository for two reasons. First, my IT department wants me to delete messages whenever my mailbox hits 200MB but Gmail gives me unlimited storage, so I never have to delete anything. Second, Gmail actually has search that works; I can never find anything in Lotus Notes even if I type in an e-mail’s subject line verbatim.
I also use shadow IT for collaboration. When half my office mates moved to a building across the street, we decided that the easiest way to keep in touch with one another was through instant messaging. Also, other colleagues work remotely and so we don’t have a chance to share story ideas in person. Our IT department doesn’t support any collaboration tools, so we turned to the Web. Our first attempt was MySpace.com. It worked. There are blogging tools and automatic notifications that let us know when someone has a new idea or has commented on an old one.
Yes, this puts a certain amount of our company’s intellectual property on the Internet where anyone can see it, but it’s the only way my colleagues and I can see it.
And IMHO, that outweighs the potential risk.