Why smart companies are embracing shadow IT — Jeanne Ross

Jeanne Ross, Director & Principal Research Scientist at the MIT Sloan School's CISR

Jeanne Ross, Director & Principal Research Scientist at the MIT Sloan School’s CISR

From Hewlett Packard Enterprise

Companies have no end of opportunities when it comes to spending their technology dollars. And over the years, individual business units have become adept at making their cases for the IT projects they want funded.

But according to our research at MIT Sloan School, top-performing companies are bypassing nice-to-have projects in favor of absolutely must-do ones by focusing on their most strategic opportunities for business transformation.

Practically speaking, this means narrowing down the programs that get funded to just a handful—and rejecting proposals for any IT projects that don’t advance one or more of those programs.

We call this “demand shaping.” Demand shaping is the process of negotiating and learning that goes on within a company as it identifies its most valuable and achievable business-change opportunities, and decides which IT programs will best support those opportunities. (Read my HPE Business Insights article “Don’t satisfy demand for IT services—shape it instead” for more on this process.)

But what about the projects that don’t get funded? Isn’t there a risk that they will just be driven underground, contributing to the ever-growing shadow IT challenge companies face today? Shadow IT, of course, is what happens when technology is brought into an organization without IT’s permission or knowledge. Some estimates put shadow IT expenditures as high as 30% of official IT budgets.

Getting a leg up in the digital economy

You might think shadow IT is anathema to good demand-shaping practices. But in fact it’s the opposite. Top-performing companies are actually embracing shadow IT.

Why? Because, under the right circumstances, shadow IT encourages experimentation, innovation, and creativity—all the things companies need to survive in the digital economy.

If the high-level business–IT relationship is working—if demand shaping is working—the company will be building and continuously enhancing a strong technology foundation that supports the organization’s top strategic goals. But business units or departments within the company should be free to use this foundation for their own initiatives.

A general shadow-IT rule of thumb should be: If an IT project will impact the company’s underlying platform or architecture, it should go through the central demand-shaping vetting process. But if an IT project piggybacks on top of one of the “big” IT programs—leveraging, but not changing, the underlying environment—it should not only be allowed, but encouraged.

Ultimately, this all comes down to relationships, and to the right conversations happening between people at all levels of IT and business. But if mutual respect exists between IT architects and program managers and their counterparts within the business units, demand shaping and shadow IT can forge an extraordinarily productive partnership.

Read the full post at Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

Jeanne Ross is the Director and Principal Research Scientist Center for Information Systems Research at MIT Sloan.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *