So when exactly did the IT department lose the respect of business users? Many of us can still remember when IT was totally in charge, managing and dictating all technology decisions made within the enterprise and users depended on it to deliver the critical applications they needed to run their operations. But now that’s a distant memory.
More recently, increasingly tech-savvy line-of-business employees have been bypassing IT to find solutions to their specific business needs, and causing shadow IT to silently become business as usual. The growth of the Software-as-a-service (SaaS) model has added fuel to the fire by enabling business users to quickly and cost-effectively deploy new solutions on their own and bypass the often slow response times of internal IT departments.
The Risk of Shadow IT is Real
While there can be many reasons spurring the growth of Shadow IT, it often reflects the reality that internal IT organizations are no longer serving the business and its needs, but rather focusing more on internal processes and controls. In IT’s defense, new technologies and solutions are constantly being brought to market at lightning speed, and most IT departments aren’t structured to implement these solutions at the rapid speed required in today’s business environment. Let’s face it: adding new functionality, modernizing existing applications or creating new ones is a complex and cumbersome process.
While business users can realize some short-term gains from their rogue IT activities, they are creating risks to the enterprise. When IT loses control of business data, it often causes the business to be non-compliant with its internal procedures and external regulations and fosters an environment replete with redundant technologies and security risks and without a strategic roadmap for growth.
How Can the IT Department Seize Back Control?
The CIO must change the current perception that it is an obstacle to change and modernization. Instead it should be viewed as a business peer that is responsive to the specific needs of different business groups.
Establish guidelines. The IT department, led by the CIO, must adopt and follow a set of guidelines on how to integrate cloud and SaaS solutions into the IT organization. For example, the SaaS solution must comply with a minimum of security standards, provide weekly data backups, carry certain insurance, etc.
Identify weaknesses. Analyze the problems that caused the need for Shadow IT in the first place. Determine how you can respond more quickly to business requirements, and not only develop the technical acumen of your IT staff, but the business acumen as well.
Claim a seat at the CEO table. Gone are the days when IT worked in the back room or temperature-controlled data center. It’s imperative that the CIO collaborate closely with the other CxO to acutely understand the business goals and what success of the organization looks like, to ensure that IT is aligned with the business and first and foremost supports those goals.
Look closely at IT investments. IT leaders must lead the charge as the department shifts from a back-office provisioning organization to a strategic service provider. That means acquiring the tools to recommend, implement, measure and manage an evolving IT-as-a-Service portfolio fueled by cloud solutions.
In today’s disruptive marketplace, the IT department must re-establish its central role and earn back respect by implementing a bold new approach: transforming itself into a service-oriented business, driven by an intelligent IT infrastructure. It must become a strategic service broker, proactively partnering with the business instead of reacting to a never-ending list of demands. Then, and only then, can an organization meet the challenges of today’s fast-paced business environment and help it innovate its way to competitive advantage.