SaaS adoption came from the bottom up. Salespeople within enterprises needed a useful CRM system, and instead of begging IT, they used their own credit cards to purchase a Salesforce.com subscription. Eventually, IT figured out Salesforce.com was pervasive in the enterprise and took over the implementation, settling on the strategy by default.
These days it's the same story around cloud-based file sharing, email, office automation applications, and even larger-scale options such as mass storage and compute services from IaaS and PaaS providers. We seem to be OK with users and developers figuring out the cloud, then IT coming in and making sense of the arrangements.
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However, in the case of cloud computing, that's not the optimal approach. In the last 10 years, it became OK to take a wait-and-see attitude regarding the strategic use of technology, such as cloud computing. This will lead many enterprises down the wrong path; perhaps they have done so already.
My message to IT shops is to step up. Define, refine, understand, and publicize your cloud strategy, then implement your plans in small phases. IT should drive any technological shift from the top down. Moreover, in doing so, IT should make sure it understands user and development requirements as related to the company strategy.
Those in "shadow IT" only understand a small portion of the problem, the one they work on daily. We can call this the microdomain. In order to make cloud computing work effectively for an enterprise, it's important to understand the problems of the larger enterprise (macro-domain).
What's needed is a shift in thinking and more leadership on the part of IT. Right now, some in IT feel cloud technology is complex and hard to manage, which results in a strategy where chaos gives way to business solutions. That idea is flawed. Though "shadow IT" has a place, the solutions should come from above.
This article, "Your company's cloud strategy must come from the top," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of David Linthicum's Cloud Computing blog and track the latest developments in cloud computing at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.