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Combating Shadow IT Once-and-For-All

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Image: Gerd Altmann -
Shadow IT; when your business units use outside services to avoid the IT organization. This application and infrastructure system are accelerating with a wide range of offerings from the cloud. Business units find the cloud attractive for unified communications (UC), especially now with the expansion of remote workers and contact center services.
Before the cloud, there was little competition for the IT organization. IT has traditionally been the source of digital technologies for the internal business units. Business units go IT to fulfill their requirements and didn’t go outside the enterprise. By bypassing IT, business units have entered a territory they have little experience with operating with. The IT organizations may view the cloud as an invader but instead should see cloud services as a competitor.
Acknowledge shadow IT existence
Cloud providers can pursue business units without your knowledge. Many cloud services focus on specific industries and speak to the units with well-prepared solutions. Your internal business customers want to be more agile, be able to respond fast to market changes, up-and-down scale capacity for seasonal variations, and avoid big investments. Moving to a pay-as-you-go service model is also a budget control solution.
You can’t defeat shadow IT by presenting several negative rationales about cloud services. It will probably backfire and produce a poor reputation that will be very difficult to overcome.
Learn from the customer through feedback
Internal customers have concerns, goals, restraints, and limited budgets. The IT organization should listen to the business concerns to properly address these them before they turn into bigger issues. This strategy should be an ongoing effort, not one- or two-time event. Someone from the IT organization should be assigned to the business unit as a liaison to IT and act as evangelist for the business unit. The feedback from the internal customer should be evaluated and included in any proposals that compete with shadow IT solutions. IT should learn the language of the business unit and act as a technology interpreter. Any IT proposals should not only satisfy the business unit, but the proposals should also fit in well with long-term goals.
The customer doesn’t know what you know
Internal customers are results-driven, not by technology. Moving to shadow IT may be their initial foray into IT technologies. The IT organization should focus on what the solution should entail. Business units will know about security and privacy but probably not how to deliver them. IT knows more about resiliency, disaster recovery designs and delivery, as well as service level agreements, and what they may not include when provided by a cloud service. The business unit will also be able to ask questions about how the cloud services them. IT will be able to investigate how cloud services are delivered.
Building trust with IT
Trusting in IT can avoid pushback by the business unit, and it can be easily lost, but hard to recreate. Not all IT projects are great successes. How the IT organization fairly addresses failures goes a long way to build trust. IT leadership should demonstrate that they’ve learned from failures and aren’t likely to repeat them. If, and when another occurs, then the business unit knows there is a lack of learning whether from the experience or intentional deceptions in ITs practice. It’s important to establish the business unit’s expectation – that feedback will be heard and responded to before an IT solution is accepted.
This isn’t an insult to IT
Don’t let your ego get in the way of delivering an acceptable solution to the business unit. It requires looking in the mirror to see whether IT or the business unit is causing the conflict. The business unit is looking for support, and an effective solution – one that is less about controlling and containing them and more about trust and collaboration. That will result in achieving a greater collective strength.
Eliminate the ego, and you unleash capabilities that reach the best solution.