by CIO Executive Council

How Leading CIOs Deal With Shadow IT

Jun 13, 20144 mins
CIOIT Strategy

Circumventing IT is easier than ever. These CIOs are minimizing risks while reaping some rewards.

Learn how three innovate CIOs are minimizing the risks of shadow IT, optimizing opportunities and building better partnerships.

Mojgan Lefebvre, Senior Vice President & CIO, Liberty Mutual: Shadow IT happens when a business group builds and implements a technology solution without the participation of IT. It can be done for the right reasons — to address a business need — but it is often a signal that IT isn’t well enough connected to the business’s needs.

Today’s technologies make it easier than ever for business users to build technology solutions; to minimize this, we have to be closer than ever to our partners so we can ensure we’re providing the services they need.

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I like to think of shadow IT in terms of risks and opportunities. We are all aware of the heightened security risks we face today–we and our business partners both know that if they implement an IT solution without IT partnership and security standards, there is a greater security risk. There are also issues of scalability and capacity–a standalone system built by a business group won’t integrate or scale well.

But when shadow IT does occur, that’s an opportunity for IT, because a shadow IT project is like a prototype or proof of concept — a small-scale project through which IT can gain an understanding of the required functionality. We can then design and build a scalable and secure solution. But we only have this opportunity if we stay in close touch with our business partners’ needs.

Build Better Relationships

Tom Cullen, CIO, Driscoll’s: At the end of the day, IT can’t say no to business needs. If it does, the business will do an end run around the IT organization. As a result, the IT department has to focus on being a partner and fostering good relationships so it can help the business figure out the problems it’s trying to solve.

Being a partner means being there, up-front, and working with your business partners to determine what problem they are trying to solve and figuring out the best solution, whether it’s an off-the-shelf package or a custom-built program.

When you have a strong relationship with business users, they know they can come to you and ask questions–they appreciate the conversation, even if IT can’t do everything they want. By having this conversation, IT helps the business understand its platform needs, and the solution will most likely be better overall because everyone is at the table from the start.

Business users appreciate IT’s help in building a road map defining where they want to go. This is a better approach to saying no because IT is involved in the conversation and selection, regardless of the solution, and it avoids the common response of building a shadow IT system within the business that creates scalability and supportability issues down the road.

Embrace the Advantages

Ursula Soritsch-Renier, CIO, Sulzer: I’m not afraid of shadow IT. These solutions, when proven, bring innovation to the company, which is good. This is not about creating an isolated IT empire–different groups are working hand-in-hand to make the company successful.

Additionally, I’m not in a support role with no opinion, I’m a partner at the table with my business peers to create the best solutions for our company and customers. We are working together, and it can get messy. IT needs to accept this. Our department has an important role–we are the integrators, the ones creating the framework and finding solutions across functional boundaries.

We also need to reflect on our own role in creating shadow IT. Sometimes other departments turn to shadow IT because we’re not sufficiently staffed or we’re not listening well enough. The business has no solution or alternative, and their end users just need to do something to help themselves. We need to be honest about these deficiencies and understand why shadow IT happens. No one does IT for the fun of it–business users have a need.

When shadow IT projects don’t succeed, it’s a reaffirmation that the business actually needs us. Overall, we should work with shadow IT and see it as another opportunity for us all to add value.

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