Chris J Powell

Shadow IT – Is it Your Fault?

For IT Leaders, there has been the ebb and flow of Out Sourcing and then Cloud Computing that put their jobs and the jobs of their staff at risk in the 1990’s and 2000’s.  Now the challenge faced by IT Shops regardless of size is the rise of Shadow IT!

Even with my profound respect for IT Professionals, I too have been guilty of bringing in or leveraging technology that has not been approved or known about to make my job easier.  The growing trend of a Tech Savvy Workforce is to go around the IT Department to get things done and while this absolutely speeds up deployment, it is a can of worms that once opened is very hard to contain.

In a Tech Republic Article titled “Shadow IT Cheat Sheet” the author calls out his readers by saying:

…if you’re reading this article on your own iPad which is connected to the office network, then you’re part of the problem and you probably don’t even know it.

The bleeding of resources away from a typical IT Infrastructure perspective does not just end with the consumerization of IT though.  Personal Devices may have been the Gateway Drug that opened the door for Shadow IT but it goes much further.  Cloud Computing and its very low barrier of Entry makes a use case for any and every department in the enterprise who wants or needs more resources to just go out and get them from a Cloud Provider.  Big Data and its ability to analyze and support business functions takes a long time to implement but the Sales Department needs to see the Macro Trends IMMEDIATELY!

These may be entry points for a diverse and growing change in the current IT Department but with a vastly more tech savvy workforce coming into their own across the world (this is a generation who has never NOT had the Internet).  IT Leaders really do need to take notice that they are not only being replaced…but there is duplicate or triplicate work loads being created and you won’t know about them until the final bill for integration comes directly to you (probably when these Technically Astute people reach the limits of their ability and understanding of the technology).

In an article from Information Week Alistair Croll looks at things from the perspective of both IT and the business.  Beyond simple distrust of Enterprise IT, he points out that there are likely 2 real reasons for the sprawl of Shadow IT:


There’s no doubt that public clouds have privacy, governance, and lock-in concerns that the line of business might not be aware of. There’s also little doubt that for a predictable, stable workload, the raw cost of on-demand computing is higher than owning your own machines because you’re paying someone else’s profit, and paying for variance–this is simply a function of Just-In-Time economics.


It takes far too long to spin up internal resources–often longer than the lifetime of the application–and today’s climate of experimentation exacerbates the issue.

Either use case is a bit of a pickle for an IT Professional because they point back to the fact that in most cases…Stability, Reliability and Usability have been the 3 pillars that IT has stood on.  The building and testing of Applications, Infrastructure changes that improve Quality with little or no impact on productivity, Support Standards built on a common set of Applications and Hardware.

The world of IT is changing…FAST!

As an IT Leader, the need to focus on Bigger, Better, Faster has been replaced with Profit, NOW, Yesterday!

Are we looking at an end to IT as we know it?  I personally think the writing has been on the wall for years.  The integration of people with a deep understanding of Technology that may sit to your right or to your left in the business world is a complete reality and while in the past these may have been your Power Users who would stem the flow of Help Desk Tickets…these may now be the biggest supporters of a Shadow IT Department (let’s build this in house, leave IT out of it, Jimmy can get everything all set up in a week and we know IT will have to test it and ensure that we complete all the Requisition forms)…guess what…Jimmy the Business Intern with a second Major in Computer Science is gone at the end of the Summer…who gets to support the work Jimmy did after he leaves???

Now I am not an analyst, nor an expert in all things IT (no matter what my colleagues tell me)…but my recommendation is start to focus on having REAL conversations with your user base.  Find out what they need, work WITH them to support the growth and demands of the business.  Focus your attentions not just on stability but EMBRACE change…the business or organization is evolving…and nature shows us what happens when an ecosystem evolves and the organisms that don’t evolve with it either perish or move on to a new environment!


Chris J Powell


3 thoughts on “Shadow IT – Is it Your Fault?

  1. Chris this post is great and so true we are even seeing this now with small solutions. It does make us a technologists think about how we need to change our strategy and approach to projects and solutions – good work.

  2. Chris, you bring out both sides of the equation fairly well, but leave us confused as to what we should see as a solution. Perhaps this is intentional on your part, since the issues are complicated, each side has a valid perspective, and it is difficult to work out the best approach.

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