Why Some CIOs Actively Promote Shadow IT


chess board shadow ITThe conventional thinking about business-led adoption of cloud services in the enterprise goes something like this:

  • Frustrated by a non-responsive IT organization, business users become attracted to the innovation, speed, and  flexibility offered by cloud vendors and solutions
  • Fearing loss of control, corporate IT puts the brakes on deployments and projects of which they become aware
  • Undaunted, business users “swipe the credit card and go” to the cloud anyway, around and outside of normal IT procurement processes
  • CIOs and IT executives are shocked to learn that cloud adoption is going on behind their backs

And while many enterprise IT departments frequently use the terms rogue IT or shadow IT to describe this phenomenon, progressive CIOs are actually encouraging this behavior as a way to gain leverage and scale with a limited IT budget.

CIOs have a finite set of time and resources to accomplish what is asked of their IT organizations. Many enterprises facing significant cost pressures and budget constraints must focus almost exclusively on supporting, maintaining, and enhancing core, mission critical systems. Think trading platforms for capital markets firms, or claims processing for insurance companies. IT can support only so many new projects requested by the business, and every CIO needs to draw the line somewhere on the project list.

For projects that fall below corporate IT’s project cut line, the cloud is a win-win proposition. Business stakeholders can go ahead and acquire from a third party the capabilities they are seeking. IT ends up with a happier internal customer. And the organization overall can effectively attain greater scale from its IT budget and headcount by pushing the business to cloud providers.

As one CIO recently commented to me, “I actually want our business users to go to the cloud. I want them to ask cloud vendors the right questions, and, of course, I want to make sure they’re not doing anything that touches our mission critical apps. But other than that, I’m happy for them to go out to get what they need.” Of course, one of the keys here is the right questions, such as those focused on critical topics including security, identity management, data ownership, integration, availability, disaster recovery/business continuity, etc.

There’s no doubt that many CIOs are surprised internal developers are using Amazon AWS, or that marketing is building its own custom apps on Salesforce.com. The more unanticipated but understandable fact is that many of them are actually relieved to have this extra weight lifted off their heavily-burdened shoulders.

Interested in reading more about how about enterprises cloud strategy?  Read our recent post about why CIOs need to take an agile approach to developing their cloud strategies.

(This post originally appeared on the Everest Group blog Gaining Altitude in the Cloud)

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