Shadow IT comes out of the shadows -- and back into IT

The cloud enabled shadow IT, but changes in IT management have helped IT gain ownership of the cloud

The IT industry has talked for some time about shadow IT: the use of technology, typically cloud computing services, without the consent -- and sometimes without the knowledge -- of enterprise IT.

The reason for shadow IT is understandable. Enterprise IT has in the past done a less than stellar job of keeping up with the business requirements of departments. The departments dealt with it themselves by subscribing to a cloud service. In fact, that's how many early SaaS providers, such as Salesforce.com, got their start.

But today, shadow IT is less necessary than it used to be. Certainly, there are organizations that turn to their own IT solutions out of frustration with nonresponsive IT departments. But often, those shadow business systems have been handed back to enterprise IT.

The reasons for moving shadow IT systems back to IT's formal ownership are pretty clear.

First, while enterprise IT initially pushed back on the use of cloud computing, they have now mostly accepted and even implemented the first or second generation of cloud computing systems. They have the people and the processes that can manage the usually simple uses of cloud-based resources that came from shadow IT.

Second, the security and governance issues are now front and center for any technology systems. Policies around the use of corporate data are in place, including repercussions when the policies are not followed. These policies were ambiguous when shadow IT began to emerge, but given the well-publicized data breaches over the past couple of years, most enterprises now have clearer policies in place.

Finally, enterprises are consolidating cloud computing procurements. While everyone can certainly sign up for SaaS subscriptions at the department level, the better deals happen when enterprises combine their departments' buying power. Centralized purchase processes now handle cloud computing procurements, and enterprise IT can easily track the usage of cloud-based resources from there and manage its uses.

Shadow IT was a good development: It provided the right motivation to get enterprise IT in gear to solve business problems faster and with better technology (the cloud). However, I also see the need to centrally manage the use of cloud resources, and I'm sure most enterprise departments never really wanted to be in the IT business in the first place.

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