The Rise Of Shadow IT - InformationWeek
Cloud // Infrastructure as a Service
10:53 AM
Alistair Croll
Alistair Croll

The Rise Of Shadow IT

When the business wants change so much that it's willing to go rogue on IT, is it misinformed, or justified? Consider this advice, CIOs.

Part Three: What's a CIO to Do?

So what's an enterprise IT professional to do? As it turns out, plenty. Good CIOs manage processes. But great CIOs ask the business to bring them problems, and then they try to solve those problems using technology. And in a connected, data-driven world, there's no shortage of problems to tackle. They just require different solutions.

Take a look at a public cloud provider. They have dozens of services--from compute, to storage, to message busses, to human APIs, to mailing systems, to payment.

Which restaurant would you rather eat at?

Resisting the variety they crave is deadly. But building a set of services they can embrace is great. Because when you build services, you don't give them access to the underlying components. You keep control of those.

And that's good for everything from governance, to licensing cost, to operational overhead.

Here's a concrete example: Storage. Most developers say, "I want a database." What they really want is a service they can query; today, that request is usually translated by IT (with its device-centric hearing) into, "I want a database server."

The architecture of a database depends a lot on how it's used. Cassandra is a kind of data store that supports fast injection of new data, for example. A traditional RDBMS is great for joining related tables together. Other architectures and tools work well for other applications--fast concurrent search results, large object storage, reliable, geographically redundant storage, and so on.

If, rather than spending a week deliberating and issuing a server, the CIO's team stands up a service, several things happen. First, the application performance will be better, because it'll be tailored to the underlying infrastructure. Second, the licensing will be easier, because there'll be a single set of underlying tools and the variety happens at the API layer, not at the component layer. And third, governance and automation is easier to manage because of standardization.

But this doesn't happen automatically. It takes a real effort of will for a traditional, bottoms-up, change-adverse IT team to see itself as the creator of services.

In other words, you need to switch from a culture of scarcity (where IT is a precious resource to be protected) to a culture of abundance (where it's an open tool for innovation) by building a rich ecosystem of services atop infrastructure you control--in both public and private cloud environments.

Rather than resisting change, IT executives need to embrace it—and appeal to basic human motivations with a little hustle, a bit of seduction, a dash of arm-twisting, and a sprinkling of raw terror. The rise of shadow IT is a topic we'll discuss during an upcoming Cloud Connect webinar on July 26th.

Alistair Croll, founder of analyst firm Bitcurrent, is conference chair of the Cloud Connect events.

Cloud Connect is expanding to the Windy City. Join 1,200+ IT professionals at Cloud Connect Chicago, where you will learn how to leverage new cloud technology solutions to increase productivity and improve your business agility. Join us in Chicago, Sept. 10-13. Register today!

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User Rank: Apprentice
7/18/2012 | 7:05:55 PM
re: The Rise Of Shadow IT
Very good read--thank you.

At some point, the bottom-up IT people and the top-down business people meet in the middle. Who is the translator? Someone still needs to understand both the business need of a database that does x and y, and the capabilities of the databases IT can provide within a reasonable time and for a reasonable cost. In companies that sell to "shadow IT," these people are called "sales engineers." Who is their counterpart in the IT organization? Does this go beyond business analysts? Isn't it they whose job it is to do requirements gathering and working with the PMO to get the requested service delivered in the way the organization wants it?
User Rank: Apprentice
7/18/2012 | 9:21:01 PM
re: The Rise Of Shadow IT
IT Asset Managers are responsible for the ITAM Program's processes that bring these two parties and approaches together to ensure the most value from the organization's IT investment. The IT Asset Manager is part technologist, part business person and adept to bringing people together for strategic as well as tactical initiatives. When the executives own the ITAM Program, organizations have found amazing savings and increases in productivity. The problem mainly lies with the knowledge and interests as you pointed out and the chasm that exists between the two parties. Silos exist for a healthy purpose and but programs are needed to span those silos. ITAM is the horizontal integration of each silosG«÷ vested interests for the purpose of reaching a decision that benefits the organizationG«÷s mission. If you'd like to learn more about what ITAM is, please feel free to visit us at We've been certifying individuals worldwide for over ten years.
User Rank: Apprentice
7/19/2012 | 5:55:44 PM
re: The Rise Of Shadow IT
"Shadow IT" has been around since the late '80s. Picture the impatient sales or marketing LOB executive who needed a mission-critical, customized system and rejected the timeframe given by his/her IT department. In the days when mainframes ruled, this rogue LOB engaged non-mainframe, turnkey software application vendors. He licensed their products and had them installed/implemented by consultants. If the system worked, then the IT department subsequently had to support the non-mainframe platform. By the mid '90s, mainframe-only shops were the minority and the mixed (mainframe and distributed) environment redefined enterprise computing. Today, we can add Cloud computing to the list of varied computing environments.
User Rank: Apprentice
8/1/2012 | 12:39:13 AM
re: The Rise Of Shadow IT
Shadow IT problem or opportunity is all about barriers of entry. It is easier than ever before to use IT for strategic advantage. In this new context, (as indicated above, i.e. "building a set of services they can embrace") IT needs to provide access to platforms, tools and solutions that the business-side can customize and use. Too easy to go rogue. But success can be amplified if IT supports, not fights the trend. --Paul Calento
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