Shadow IT Weakens Traditional IT

  • Aki Anttila

Cloud services have quickly brought along Shadow IT, which has started to undermine the position – importance, responsibility and budgets – of traditional IT. The threat to existing IT administration managers is clear: if you cannot keep up with the needs of the business, new solutions will be purchased without you, and you will be left wiping the dust off the aging infrastructure, until it is finally time to be turned off.

Shadow IT may arouse many different feelings in IT administration. The basic reaction is some sort of denial – “No, we do not have anything like that”. Alternative approaches are irritation, anger and even hatred. Very few IT administration managers see Shadow IT as an opportunity, even though that is exactly what it is. Shadow IT provides the IT administration with a natural way to renew and expand its role to cover the entire organization, and cease to be just a support function.

There are two paths to take with regard to Shadow IT. The first is to perceive the situation. In practice, a large part of Shadow IT concerns the use of various cloud services, so the main thing is to understand what is being used and to what extent. This is something that cannot be managed through surveys; instead, the only sensible way is to monitor the Internet traffic using special cloud service tools. Santa Monica Networks offers them for sale or as a service, and they give an exact idea of the organization’s use of various cloud services.

When you understand the nature and extent of IT resources that are directly used from various cloud services, you can build a cloud service strategy. Its aim is to define the products allowed in each tool category (e.g. social media, file sharing services) and assist the IT administration in acquiring the necessary licenses. Similarly, the IT administration ensures that the use of chosen services is secure from the organization’s point of view.

Another path for adopting Shadow IT concerns internal activities. Since nowadays information technology is needed in almost every development project in every organization, the IT administration should be involved in such projects. This will change the traditional model and set new challenges concerning expertise, for example. IT administration personnel no longer need to have excellent skills in VMware configuration, for instance; instead, they should be able to understand business challenges and realize how information technology can be used to respond to them. Actual work can be delegated to third parties, i.e. service companies specialized in, for example, the configuration of routers, firewalls or VMware.