Time to cast a spotlight on Shadow IT

  • Posted on May 2, 2017

When it comes to Shadow IT, it has been suggested to ‘sniff it out,’ ‘hunt it down’ and ‘cut it off.’ Draconian views to stop it to some extent carry weight, yet it is time to reconsider. I would suggest that we need to take a different view as I believe there is business value to be had from this popular business practice.

The Big Issue with Shadow IT Is Related Business Competitiveness

The debate rages on the increase in Shadow IT - being IT services procured by the line of business directly from the as-a-service provider. I would suggest that the main concern is that this direct procurement path and the lack of engagement by IT in the process can discount the leverage of existing IT assets such as valuable data. Without this leverage, a procured service will be just the same as case studies presented during the procurement process and a resulting vanilla experience for clients and employees.

However, there are positive outcomes. A recent conversation with a client demonstrated a perfect example of the benefits of embracing Shadow IT. The business had procured an as–a-service platform to provide business intelligence and scenario modelling of specific problems in the Energy industry. Luckily, it was the combination of the platform and the wealth of data already constructed by IT that proved to be the winner in identifying opportunities for plant optimization. In this situation, everyone got maximum value from the acquired service.

Another example is Gartner's recent study on CMO plans points out an increase in budget and a focus of spending on web, digital commerce and digital marketing. At least 8% of those budgets are cited to be spent on digital commerce. The engagement and leverage of IT in integration and leverage of the broader organizations efforts are crucial to a differentiated experience for customers and employees.

Stronger Business & IT Partnerships to Maximize Value

By leveraging existing IT assets along with the as–a-service offerings in the market, true value can be driven by a differentiated client and employee experience. The change in attitude toward Shadow IT will require business and IT leaders to develop a working relationship that is focused on the business outcome and have in place a governance and procurement process to support this.

Whilst I am focusing on the business value of embracing Shadow IT, we do need to remain vigilant of the impacts of exposing business assets through the proliferation of user-procured Shadow IT.

Introducing Design-based Thinking for Shadow IT

The most exciting part of the enhanced relationship is that IT and business leaders can and should engage from ideation right through to delivery of the service. Design-based thinking is the answer in order to bring stakeholders to the table for a couple of reasons. First, to ideate on the business challenges or strategies and second, how the existing IT assets could be leveraged along with the as-a-service to create a compelling outcome.

Here are my four suggestions when tackling Shadow IT scenarios:

  1. Ensure that you have a governed working relationship with the business. This should start with the ideation of new and improved services to support business strategy.
  2. Ensure that IT has a range of skills that can support strategic execution and can adapt and move with the business. Move the IT teams to the areas of investment.
  3. Remain vigilant on the monitoring of Shadow IT as part of an overall security and risk posture.
  4. Support the business understanding of the value of the data assets and existing IT systems that can be leveraged to drive business competitiveness.

With the implementation of these key actions, your business should see more value in the Shadow IT happening within your organization. But, perhaps, would it no longer be deemed Shadow IT?

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