I’ve never been a big fan of the associations of the concept of “Shadow IT”. It’s been often portrayed as a bad thing, the result of a Corporate IT department that has lost control. Somehow that those pursuing alternatives to the mandated corporate systems are somehow furtively trying to undermine the power of authority.
Ever since my first experience of a business unit deciding to take a path alternative to that that the Enterprise Technology Mandarins had determined the true way, my views have been a little different.
The Internet, and Cloud Computing have, over the past two decades, turned technology consumption in organisations into a dramatically free market. That’s “Free” in both the speech and often beer varieties. As a result, corporate IT departments have gone from effective monopolies to operating in a free market. If an organisation that is used to operating without need to heed to the needs of their customers suddenly finds themselves in an open market, bad things will usually happen to the formerly monopoly supplier.
Now of course an IT department isn’t just a provider of services. They also have an important role to play in acting as a governance function, which certainly muddies the waters a bit. But maybe in turn IT departments need to think of themselves a little less like a utility company and a little more like a planning regulator – setting guidance for what is and is not acceptable, and providing some checks and balances along the way. Like a local authority who may once in a while decide to construct some buildings along the way, but who otherwise will not try to build everything for everyone.
But whilst the idea of Shadow IT might not be helpful with it’s negative connotations, what about Shadowless IT?
In mythology, a vampire casts no shadow, and that is because it has no soul. Is an organisation that has no Shadow IT demonstrating a lack of organisational soul? Even with the best IT provision in the world, surely we should in these VUCA times be positively delighted to find groups of employees wanting to push the boundaries and find alternatives to the status quo? People demonstrating curiosity and wanting to improve through better use of technology?
Is an organisation without shadow IT essentially the walking dead?