Embracing Shadow IT and Disruptive “as a Service” Technologies

September 25, 2015 § Leave a comment

In a great article posted here, author Mike Foden, makes a point about the “waves of change” facing the IT industry. Just as how Amazon disrupted the brick and mortar booksellers and music stores, and Google and Apple changed the face of mobile, as a service technologies are poised to disrupt traditional IT as we know it.

as-a-Service functionality

Key features associated with as-a-Service technologies

I believe this will be true not only for IT vendors (see Mike’s article for more information about this), but those who manage internal IT teams as well. Why should an internal customer face delayed infrastructure provisioning times or the politics associated with procuring software licenses when they can swipe a credit card and have access to the latest software and support? This practice of bypassing internal IT teams to get access to the needed tools is known as Shadow IT and it is typically associated with using software as a service (SaaS) technologies . It should be noted that there are often Shadow IT users running infrastructure as a service (IaaS) without approval, but it is becoming increasingly common with lines of businesses who no longer have to rely on traditional IT for procurement, deployment, or even support as using a SaaS often means these elements are managed by the external vendors.

There are risks with this practice, non-regulated tools being used with sensitive data being one primary example, but it doesn’t have to be all bad news. I think this is especially true for internal IT teams trying to develop tools or processes which enable the business. Unless it becomes a point of competitive differentiation, building or managing applications themselves inhibits business agility as technology refreshes can otherwise cause end users to rely on outdated technology. This doesn’t change with outsourced management or hosting as the deployment model requires a set of relatively static software to be deployed for a defined time period unless the team commits to updating their application as often as the original vendor makes updates (which can be an expensive proposition). Instead, by relying on a SaaS model, internal IT teams no longer have to worry about updates which may require architecture changes or costly infrastructure upgrades. Instead, the team is now enabling increased productivity for the end users (by allowing access to the latest tools) and creating flexibility for themselves in case the software does not perform as desired or workloads/users change.

Benefits of Collaboration between IT & Lines of Businesses

Possible benefits of collaboration between IT & Lines of Businesses (LOB)

Relying on this model of embracing SaaS also means embracing Shadow IT and understanding what tools are being used most frequently and how it can be offered to end users while addressing key risks. In this way, internal IT teams can become part of the disruption they face by not only enabling their end users, but also offering value added reasons to partner with IT rather than work around them. Ultimately this creates a stronger relationship between IT and Lines of Businesses with 70% of leading enterprises or “Pacesetters” agreeing (see graphic above). This could be as simple as offering the SaaS applications on a pre-negotiated and pre-configured fashion to something more complex, such as integrations to critical systems of engagement.  This is something I am starting to see more and more, especially in the context of internal teams becoming cloud brokers, and I look forward to posting additional content on this subject in the near future.

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