Shadow IT and informal support

Shadow IT could help fill the void of IT support.

There’s been a trend over the years, driven by the “consumerisation” of IT, where users are making their own decisions about the types of technology in use. It’s a losing battle for IT departments and the CIO to control the way these devices are used, as users have been using cloud services on their phones, tablets and computers for far longer than most of their company’s are making available (or they run their own servers at home bypassing company technology altogether). If the CIO is not keeping pace and supporting these users, other business areas will.

1.     There’s a much larger virtual team out there.

I’ve witnessed top down directives to close down certain non-standard initiatives, purely for control reasons. It’s even more frustrating for the technical staff, seeing their initiatives happily being picked up by the marketing department, spending extra money on outsourcing the support to an external organisation. This may be a fairly common practice, and although at first it seems counter productive, the hijacking of some processes may very well lead to more, not fewer, evangelists who can help speed up technology adoption from an outside-in approach. A lot of companies use functional boundaries developed for ages gone past, it may not be necessary to completely revamp those models, but you lose out if don’t take advantage of the modern knowledge that’s spread wider than deeper.

2.     Shadow IT can speed things up

The term Shadow IT refers to that group of IT services being performed elsewhere in the organisation, outside of the CIO’s control, some forecast this to possibly account for around a third of IT usage.  Typically, other business areas and users have long been frustrated by slow delivery as CIO’s tackle large scale projects costing huge amounts of money with delivery cycles of many months, if not years. In a lot of cases, they are now bypassing the CIO and making their own decisions about the types of technology in use.

Is that such a bad thing? Some CIO’s will argue they need to control and command, but they may find that insisting on that path, their role will become more and more diminished as the digital role becomes part of everyone’s job function. There’s another argument that says that these business owners are in a much better position to know the types of technology required and are, in a lot of cases, far more able to support the use of that technology. If you’re running a sales or marketing team and the CIO has taken three years to get a CRM system installed internally, then it’s very likely your users have already found their own way of managing that information on their own and, more importantly, are already supporting co-workers in making it work far more suited for their work environment and probably more efficient.

photo credit: CA Technologies via photopin cc

3.     Collaboration is the goal.

The modern CIO is all too aware of the pace, and the need for speed with constant demands for his time and resources and just maybe, where there are places to do so, allow some space, loosen up some of the controls, remove the blockages and the multi-year projects, keep some teams for the heavy duty stuff, that no one sees or values, but is just as important, and start to use those specialist generalist people who operate across the spectrum. Small projects become the norm, automation is at the core of everything that gets done, and learn from those people outside the core IT group who are already supporting you. Find ways to help them, develop service levels and they will help you.

Whether it’s through open software tools or just pure social interactions, some of the greatest ideas will come from those not in the coalface. Some of the best support will come from that person who is empowered to solve a customer issue but knows there is backing to support her.

photo credit: Jonathan Kos via photopin cc