'Shadow IT' can be the cloud's best friend

Though corporate IT fights against unauthorized use of cloud-based resources, this user-pull approach is actually helpful

"Shadow IT" -- where users acquire and manage IT resources outside the control of corporate IT -- is the bane of many IT organizations. We've seen numerous instances of this over the years, including the use of PCs, the Web, the iPhone, and now cloud computing resources without a formal policy and support from corporate IT.

It's easy to see why users resort to shadow IT: Employees charged with running profit centers see a need for a specific type of technology. Rather than fight through IT's red tape and endless meetings, they go out and get what they need. Indeed, a PricewaterhouseCoopers study finds as much as 30 percent of IT spending coming from business units outside the official IT budget.

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Although this is akin to anarchy for many in IT, shadow IT in reality pulls the company in more productive directions, which today includes the use of the cloud. We saw that same user-driven benefit in the 1980s with the PC, in the 1990s with the Web, and in the last few years with mobile devices. Now users are bringing in cloud services such as file and document sharing, enterprise applications, mass storage, and even on-demand data analytics.

I do not advocate that IT give up control and allow business units to adopt any old technology they want. However, IT needs to face reality: For the past three decades or so, corporate IT has been slow on the uptake around the use of productive new technologies.

When the business units move forward, they force the hand of corporate IT. Often, IT will stomp out the use of unauthorized cloud-based resources and thus reduce the productivity of that business unit. A better approach would be for IT to get ahead of that technology on behalf of the company, leading versus following those business units into the cloud.

The end result is a new and hotter fire under corporate IT to lead the way in evaluating new technologies, such as cloud computing, and bringing value to the business. The days of IT automatically saying no are quickly coming to a close. If IT doesn't add value, then business units will work around them, and that would lead to a much smaller and less impactful corporate IT resource. I'm not sure anybody wants or needs that now.

This article, "'Shadow IT' can be the cloud's best friend," 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.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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