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Assessing the Threat of Shadow IT

I don’t have an IT department, but my clients do. Often when we collaborate, we use whatever platform works for the specific team – over-the-top (OTT) applications are especially preferred. With one of my clients, we rarely used the video conferencing solution provisioned by their internal IT team (Microsoft Teams), opting instead for a department-preferred solution (GoToMeeting, in this case). This is fine with me, but I realize this might not be so fine with the internal IT department.
To learn more about what’s commonly referred to as “shadow IT,” I contacted Becky Linahon, director of marketing at TetraVX, to get her opinions about who should make IT decisions and why some non-IT departments pursue shadow IT solutions.
We know that IT decisions are being made outside of IT departments in many organizations. So, what has been the driving force behind the growth of shadow IT and why is it such a bad thing?
More now than ever before, we are seeing technology decisions being made in individual business groups. This is more commonly seen in small or mid-market organizations, where IT departments are smaller and have limited representation. Shadow IT can also be attractive to dissatisfied business units in larger enterprises. The main driver behind this shift is the on-demand access to cloud-based SaaS platforms that satisfy unique business unit needs.
Shadow IT causes disparate technology platforms across departments, preventing companies from having a complete view of valuable company data or finding cross-departmental collaboration efficiencies. Shadow IT may also lead to overspending should isolated department technologies have redundant functionality or purposes.
So, what can IT do to regain control? Should they act like an adviser instead?
It's important to understand that IT is a part of a larger team that needs to make technology decisions. It’s not a matter of complete control vs. third-party advisor, but rather a better understanding of who needs a seat at the table. Most commonly, there should be representation from IT, business unit leadership, and organizational leadership to make technology decisions. IT’s roles is to understand what the technical requirements are for the platform, and how new technology or technology replacements fit into the entire organization’s stack.
When implementing new technology within an organization, why is it critical to have someone from each department present to consider all end users’ needs?
Without end-user input, you run the risk of deploying a platform that will not satisfy each user’s needs and therefore lead to poor adoption and ROI. With representation from each business unit, you can identify the wants and needs from each department to drive the decision, and you can also create use cases that will support training each user type after deployment.
Why should each department be purposeful in carving out a scope of work for a proof of concept based on their particular needs?
The goals of one department may not align 1:1 with the goals of another. Where sales may prioritize how easy it is to manage contacts and activity in a new CRM, accounting has more interest in the ease of invoice creation. If all departments aren’t considered during the scoping process, you may find yourself backtracking later on to solve for specific department issues that were not considered early on.
Technology now comprises 29% of marketing budgets, resulting in CMOs spending more time and budget on technology than CTOs. What's the best way to get IT, leadership, and marketing teams to work together successfully?
It’s important that technology conversations happen with representation from all parties. Marketing leadership should focus on the business objective a piece of technology needs to solve. What’s the business problem, and what does the team need to solve it? IT leadership should focus on the technical requirements and deploy a platform that will do what marketing leadership. You need to consider X, Y, and Z. Finally, organizational leadership should oversee how this impacts the organization as a whole. Open lines of communication with all parties throughout the technology decision-making and deployment process are imperative.