The cloud is enabling business managers and users to acquire new technology capabilities directly, without going through their corporate IT departments. Some in the IT industry are unhappy about this trend—commonly referred to as “Shadow IT”—because it threatens to disrupt their traditional way of doing things. But others recognise it as a significant market opportunity for those who are agile enough to respond to it.
More specifically, the Shadow IT phenomenon is creating a whole new market for monitoring and management solutions. Departmental users that no longer want to depend exclusively on their corporate IT departments to acquire technology certainly don’t want to depend exclusively on those corporate IT departments for monitoring and managing that technology, either.
A central question raised by the rise of Shadow IT is therefore this: How will departmental users monitor and manage technology as they seek a greater degree of independence from corporate IT—especially given their limited budgets and lack of technical expertise?
What do users want?
The history of the relationship between IT and the business is one of continuous user empowerment. Back in the days of the mainframe, IT was in complete control of all software and hardware. Then, as distributed computing emerged, users began to get their own desktop productivity tools in the form of PC software. This shift in empowerment continued as the Web gave users the freedom to quickly find all kinds of information resources using browsers, search engines and hyperlinks. Most recently, the Internet has also become a source of full-blown applications that users can run without having to download any code onto their corporate-owned desktops at all—or that they can run on smartphones and tablets that they personally control.
This movement away from IT control and towards user empowerment is not likely to reverse itself. IT has its hands full running the data centre, keeping sensitive information assets secure and developing new strategic capabilities in areas such as big data and analytics. Given these burdens—and given the seemingly insatiable appetite of the business for new capabilities—users are going to bypass corporate IT departments in pursuit of their needs, if and when it makes sense to do so.
Simply put, history has taught us that the forces driving Shadow IT are stronger than those that would resist it. PCs, the Web and software-as-a-service (SaaS) were going to happen with or without the endorsement of corporate IT. The same holds true of this next generation of user empowerment.
Monitoring and management
In addition to teaching us that business users are hungry for technology, history has also taught us that they don’t give sufficient thought about how to manage that technology over time. Users may have led the charge to PC and LANs, but corporate IT had to figure out how to keep them running. Users may have led adoption of the Web, but it was left to IT make corporate use of the Web secure.
Sign up for MIS Asia eNewsletters.