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The rise of shadow IT: Pros and cons

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Shadow IT is the proliferation of information technology (IT) that remains largely unknown and unseen by a company’s business IT department, which is concerning from both a security and a management perspective.

Gartner is predicting that by 2016 35 percent of IT expenditure will go toward shadow IT, so what is driving this and how can it be both embraced and controlled?

The advent of cloud computing has empowered lines of business and individuals by providing easy access to cloud-based services and applications. Cloud services can be on or off premises, and they can be accessed quickly with a credit card or “try before you buy” feature. They are often hosted on external platforms such as Amazon and SoftLayer, an IBM company.

This ease of use provided by the cloud is probably the biggest threat to the traditional IT department. As mentioned above, the ability for users and line of business to source their own technology has risen and become much easier. IT is often seen as unresponsive and controlling, and these negative perceptions have fuelled the shadow IT explosion.

A new generation of user has also emerged. The millennial generation expects to have the same experience at work as they do with their personal tablet or smartphone. And right now, the business IT department is not geared up for these expectations, so millennials turn to shadow IT.

The case for shadow IT is that it drives innovation and removes barriers. The flip side is that it is uncontrolled, unmanaged and potentially not secure enough.

This is an opportunity for the IT industry to step up to help both IT departments and lines of business. A balancing act must be struck to embrace and provide control. In other words, IT service providers and suppliers have the opportunity to be the trusted advisors. They can ensure that expectations and requirements are met on both sides. It’s no easy task, but it’s one that must be embraced and achieved if everyone wants success.

One area where suppliers can show their worth is in the use of change and configuration management. For example, it’s difficult if the line of business is running around unchecked, and this is where good process management is key in the form of IT service management. Industry best practices should be reviewed constantly to take into account the proliferation of shadow IT so the business doesn’t suffer detrimental outages or security breaches.

It is clear that employees and lines of business have spoken. They want choice, and they expect greater speed and agility, so shadow IT is here to stay. The CIO must figure out the best way to deal with it through governance and help from both inside and outside of the business.

IBM UKI Hybrid Cloud Integration Team

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