In this sixth blog of our series drawing on the Logicalis Global CIO study, CEO Mark Rogers revisits the thorny issue of Shadow IT – an issue that is both feared for the cracks it creates in an organisation’s IT estate and tolerated for the shortcut it provides to innovation. Is it time to rebrand Shadow IT as Distributed IT?
Just as shadows can seem to creep across the floor, it seems – according to our CIO Survey – that Shadow IT is working its way deeper and deeper into organisations.
Compared to the previous year, the frequency with which CIOs are by-passed altogether is on the increase. More line of business managers are buying technology on their own, without involving IT. For 40% of respondents, this now happens very often or most of the time (compared to 29% in 2015). Indeed, many IT decisions aren’t controlled by CIOs any more: 40% now say they make half of the IT decisions in their organisations at best.
Shadow IT and the US Elections
Is this a problem? In some cases, it can land organisations in hot water. The US presidential election could be regarded as one of the most high profile examples of Shadow IT. Hillary Clinton allegedly bypassed White House rules to use her personal email account and mobile device for highly sensitive government work, having paid one of her stafffers to set up the account. Some argue that the subsequent FBI probe derailed Hillary Clinton’s White House bid.
The ensuing scrutiny of her email habits sparked a much wider debate about the perils of Shadow IT – particularly the governance implications of taking communications off the grid and beyond corporate oversight.
Saying all that, Shadow IT also has its uses. It builds a bridge where there is a lack of official IT resources to support a real business need, and it reduces strain on the often overworked IT department. Indeed, today, it’s more ‘Distributed IT’ than Shadow IT.
‘Low code’ developers, for instance, now have the cloud platforms they need to develop customised applications with little coding knowledge. Permitting these developers to develop ‘on the fly’ can speed up software development and delivery timetables without sacrificing performance or security – though of course, there remains a need to protect the integrity of all IT systems and data.
This ‘Distributed IT’ offers plenty of benefits, not least empowering more employees – whole companies in fact – to enjoy the benefits of digital IT.
In summary then, maybe the time to fear Shadow IT is behind us. Maybe it’s time businesses see which way the wind is blowing, and distribute the gains – thereby bringing Distributed IT out from the shadows.