How to Prevent Shadow IT by Fostering Three Values


If you want to prevent employees from casting IT shadows at your organization, focus on enablement, transparency, and partnership.

  • Everyday Cloud Use & the Clinton Scandal
  • A Struggle for Control
  • Value #1 – Enablement
  • Value #2 – Transparency
  • Value #3 – Partnership
  • Providers Who Share Your Vision

Everyday Cloud Use & the Clinton Scandal

Here is what is great about the cloud: employees have immediate access to a broad range of productivity software and essentially limitless resources delivered through multiply redundant virtual machines, without having to clear everything with IT. Here is what is not so great: employee have immediate access without having to clear everything with IT.

The recent case of Hillary Clinton operating her own private email server out of her house for official State Department correspondence has brought the concept of shadow IT into the light. While cloud-delivered software-as-a-service (SaaS) apps such as Dropbox seem to be (by far) the most prevalent form of shadow IT, Clinton’s system similarly existed outside the infrastructure of her institution.

As we pointed out in our exploration of the Clinton case, Shadow IT is incredibly prevalent. It’s so prevalent, in fact, that Gartner Research analyst Simon Mingay argues we should “engage with [shadow IT] and adopt practices that will exploit it as a delivery mechanism, albeit with some guardrails and clarification of accountability to mitigate the risks and enhance the value.”

In other words, you don’t have to outlaw shadow IT but can scale it back using enablement, transparency, and partnership.

A Struggle for Control

IT used to be completely in charge of computing within the enterprise. No matter what department people were in, the IT department was the only way for them to get the services they needed.

The flexibility  and deployment simplicity of cloud have accelerated shadow IT. As suggested above, it’s too easy to say that it’s negative.  As Anjali Acharya suggested in Forbes​BrandVoice, SaaS tools allow employees to optimize speed and efficiency while not having to wait for a green light from IT.

Shadow IT results in “application sprawl” as various departments go out and get something that makes sense for their immediate purposes.

Plus, too often, productivity trumps security. In fact, a survey conducted by Skyhigh for the Cloud Security Alliance determined that leadership at more than three out of every four companies consider cloud security to be a top business priority.

Based on conversations with two CIOs, Acharya gleans three values to foster in the interest of creating a proper balance between employee agility and proper data management.

Value #1 – Enablement

NetApp CIO Cynthia Stoddard believes that the role of IT leadership is “to provide technology frameworks and an operating model to facilitate but not throttle innovation.”

Stoddard decided that the best approach currently available to meet that objective is a hybrid cloud. By deploying a hybrid cloud (a blend of public and private systems), Stoddard’s team created an environment that is ideal for self-servicing and collaboration. Rather than excising the accounts and applications of shadow IT, she pulled it under the umbrella. Now, the workforce is less inclined to dodge IT to meet its needs.

Value #2 – Transparency

Many people’s eyes glaze over when you start to talk about computing. Part of the reason is because IT has a lot of jargon, and the human element seems stripped away from the code and machines. Do your best to find common ground by being transparent.

“If you can be open and transparent and say, ‘Hey, I need to change,’’’ Stoddard argues, “you’ll have a better relationship with your users.”

With the rise of cloud computing, Stoddard’s perspective toward IT has adapted. She now sees it as made up of three components:

  • · IT controlled by business divisions
  • · IT controlled by IT
  • · IT with shared control.

While you won’t control all the systems in the model advocated by Stoddard, you can provide information to all users so that everyone is dedicated to reasonable guidelines.

Value #3 – Partnership

You want your organization’s technological environment to be characterized by partnership rather then “we-they” infighting.

Give your users access to the services and resources that will help them excel, and don’t obsess over security upfront, says RedHat CIO Lee Congdon. Rather, manage new ideas within test scenarios.

Congdon says that he now tends to think of employees on the business side as problem-solvers. When a new application or infrastructural approach is identified, the department looks it over and determines if it makes sense from a business perspective. Once that aspect is satisfied, IT reviews the solution by price-checking, running a risk assessment, and evaluating potential challenges of integration.

If the tool passes from both a business and IT standpoint, it is incorporated.Once they start seeing IT as ‘on their side,’ Congdon explains, “business users will have increased confidence in IT’s platforms and apps.”

As Congdon sees it, your main goal is to keep communication channels open. Neither side should want to point fingers when issues arise because you’ve created a culture of mutuality.

Providers Who Share Your Vision

To tackle shadow IT, you want the business side to appreciate the tech side for its consultative expertise characterized by values of enablement, transparency, and partnership.

If you want to consistently deliver on those values, it’s best to work with providers who share your vision. At Superb Internet, we are a customer-centric IaaS provider that forms transparent partnerships with our clients to enable their success.

By Kent Roberts

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