Shadow IT – No Longer In the Shadows

TwitterI am hearing many interpretations of what Shadow IT is and means. A recent conversation on Twitter revealed the various interpretations.

So what do I believe Shadow IT is? I believe Shadow IT is about systems or solutions being used within an organisation without any approval from corporate IT or even any knowledge of it.

Shadow IT however is not new. It has been around for a long time but it is now just far easier and prevalent.

Years ago departments not satisfied with corporate IT response or agility would employ someone with IT skills and create their own internal IT department within their business unit. Corporate IT would have little or no knowledge of this—until of course they were called on the support it!

Today, however, anyone within the organisation armed with a credit card and Internet access can purchase an application and have it up and running pretty much immediately. Shadow IT is coming out of the shadows.

So is this a bad thing? I don’t believe so. I think it is just the way of things today and the future—but it does mean a major change for traditional IT.

As business units start to feel more independent of traditional IT, they will start to question the value that IT brings. Therefore IT has to respond and has to do so NOW.

IT has to get closer to the business—understand the business—and determine and demonstrate the value that IT can add. No longer can IT just be build-and-support; it must be a strategic partner. It has to work with the business and suppliers and determine the best solutions for the business. IT becomes, as Charles Araujo described it in his book “The Quantum Age of IT”, a retailer. IT shows the business what options are available to them and assists in selecting the best fit.

Consumerisation of IT and commoditisation of technology solutions is just going to keep increasing, so IT must move fast if it hopes to retain any relevance in the organisation.

IT must use its knowledge, experience, and expertise to “guide” the business on the best solutions that deliver business value. IT should support business innovation, determine what needs to be delivered, and how that can be done most effectively.

IT can use its skills and expertise as the business is faced with more and more commoditised services, and guide the business on the best investments. This is not to say that IT cannot continue to innovate but it must support business innovation and only where the “innovation” is a true value differentiator to the business.

IT will still have to support and maintain existing technologies and support end-users, but the key roles will be the ones that focus on supplier management, contract negotiation, business relationship management, communications and marketing, leadership, and financial management to name a few.

If I have one last piece of advice in closing this article, read the book I mentioned earlier. Charles Araujo not only describes why everything you know about IT is about to change, but what you need to do about it.


This post was written as a contribution to the “LANDESK SHADOW IT  – It’s About People – And That Matters To All of Us” book 2014.

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