The promises that cloud-based delivery mechanisms would improve flexibility, speed deployment, and spur business innovation are clearly being realized, and that’s brought about both benefits and challenges for IT departments. The plus-sides are illustrated by findings showing that 97% of senior IT senior decision makers surveyed by Vanson Bourne for Tata Communications say their organizations have adopted cloud-computing to some extent, with 84% reporting that cloud computing is already critical, or very important, to their organizations. All the while, more than 8 in 10 of those same respondents say the cloud has met or exceeded expectations in terms of cost reduction, access to data, increased revenue, increased productivity, and improved internal communications, among other upsides.
As for any downside, the accessibility of cloud-based services also has democratized enterprise technology within the enterprise, placing the purchasing and deployment IT assets outside of the control of IT departments. This “shadow IT,” whereby various employees install and use software without the consent, or possibly even knowledge, of IT departments, is expected to account for about 15% of application spending by small and mid-market firms, according to figures from Techaisle.
Surveys by CDW, meanwhile, found that as much as 37% of cloud services among cloud-subscribing organizations are selected and managed by employees outside of the IT department. CDW reports that 33% of HR departments, 33% of operations, and 29% of finance departments report to buying cloud services directly. The top applications being purchased under shadow include back-up and file sharing software, and mobility and social tools, suggests a Vanson Bourne survey.
The risks and complications for IT departments are understandable. In addition to security and compliance issues – due to company data getting spread across more users and devices – there’s also the problems of siloed data and duplicated costs, since shadow apps generally won’t be connected to the broader IT infrastructure. So, it’s easy to see why shadow IT was initially considered a threat to IT departments, whose first reactions was to clamp down on what it considered “rogue” or “Black Ops” IT, as it was disparagingly dubbed.
|Besides IT, what parts of the organization are buying cloud services directly?*|
|Source: CDW; *among IT decision makers|
Today, however, IT departments are beginning to accept the reality of shadow IT and are being advised to embrace and manage it. Despite their initial concerns, CIOs and IT leaders are beginning to understand that business users are essentially just trying to do their jobs and use technology to move companies forward. And, this falls directly in line with CIOs’ current stated agenda of placing more time and money on innovation, and less on maintenance.
Among retail CIOs surveyed by Forrester Research, for example, developing an effective IT governance process that allows for innovation, yet protects the business, was a top priority in 2015 – behind only managing data security. It was named as a top-five by 78 percent of respondents, up from the 24 percent who expressed the same concern in 2014.
Elsewhere, more than half (56%) of North American IT professionals said a program that allows employees to “bring your own application” (BYOA) provides greater flexibility to access information, while a quarter see it as a way to reduce the cost of software purchase and licensing.
“IT organizations need to reframe their perspective on shadow IT, engage with it and adopt practices that will exploit it as a delivery mechanism,” writes Gartner analysts Simon Mingay, in his May 2014 report on the subject. Indeed, the emergence of shadow IT — along with the cloud-based delivery mechanism that largely enables it – has made businesses and their technology more agile. And, to truly take advantage of all it can be, Simon recommends IT becomes more agile, as well.
Martin Vilaboy is editor-in-chief of ChannelVision magazine, a printed and online source for resellers and brokers of communications and IT products and services. For more information, visit:www.channelvisionmag.com; CV@LinkedIn.