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Shadow IT: Threat or opportunity for technology specialists?

Is shadow IT as sinister as it sounds? Depending on your outlook, it could be – a bit like beauty being in the eye of the beholder.

Conversations at the recent New Zealand CIO Summit confirm that while some may not see it as an immediate threat, shadow IT has certainly captured the attention of IT professionals.

For those not in-the-know, shadow IT refers to the hardware and software that many organizations now use without the input – and sometimes knowledge – of their IT team.

With the ever-growing shift to the cloud, an increasing number of teams are trialing software without any awareness or recommendations from IT, because their level of expertise isn’t required to successfully register and explore these platforms.

Times are a-changing

The changing roles of tech specialists, explored at the CIO Summit, prompted the question: how can CIOs and their teams of IT specialists continue to add value and play a key role in their organization and its users’ journeys?

IT experts are well aware of the fact that they are losing sight of the technology being employed in their organizations. As gatekeepers in times gone by, the responsibility of selecting and approving technology tools for the organization – sometimes without fully understanding what the business requirements were – has historically fallen fairly and squarely within the IT team’s remit.

This accountability often includes the effective deployment of technological change into the business. While there’s an acknowledgement within the industry that this requires a particular skill if you are to execute it well, it also struck me as I listened to discussion and presentations at the CIO Summit, that change management seems to have become an accepted expectation of IT specialists.

Embrace the new landscape

IT teams are being forced to take the goggles off with the new-found independence of their users. Compelled to have real conversations with the business about their tech needs, it is in their best interests to act as a useful resource in the process of acquiring tech software, rather than perpetuating the perception of being an obstacle.

This shift in thinking – and power, according to some – has resulted in some CIOs questioning their role within the business.

By partnering with the business rather than employing an us-against-them mentality, business teams and IT specialists can give teams the benefit of their specialist knowledge and experience. Guiding them on how to leverage off existing tools, and integrate them with newly acquired ones, can enhance performance, reduce complexity and engage teams.

Cross the divide between IT and business

One way to bridge the gap between tech specialists and users is to share tech knowledge in a clear, accessible way. By guiding teams on how to make smart decisions about the selection of new software and what pitfalls to look out for, IT specialists can impact business decisions without being part of every approval process.

Capturing best-practice processes and sharing those with users, empowers teams with information to help them make sound decisions without being tech experts.

CIOs can implement these 3 tips in their efforts to engage teams:

  • Share IT’s strategic direction, so they understand how their software choices impact the organization’s bigger picture
  • Use processes to display your team’s commitment to transparency and collaboration by sharing information and empowering users
  • Make guidelines easily digestible: stick to vocabulary that business teams are familiar with and use a tone they will respond to

The CIO as enabler

Today, CIOs are less about sourcing and authorizing tools, and more about providing a framework for how business teams can effectively integrate new tools into the organization. With the help of good processes, CIOs can free up teams to innovate and make headway with achieving their goals.

IT-generated processes can help business teams with a number of tech-related choices when faced with a plethora of options:

  • The best fit for the organization and which tools will be genuinely useful
  • The likelihood of the newly-selected tool integrating with existing – and future – platforms
  • A platform that has the right level of security and privacy in place
  • Who to call on if they get stuck and need input from a tech specialist
  • What systems are in place and how they currently fit into the business strategy

Processes can give IT specialists the edge

As much as processes can help with safe, effective ways of handing over the responsibility for acquiring new technology, they can also empower IT teams to navigate a changing world of work, while continuing to add value to their organizations.

Effective process management can enable IT to:

  • Stay abreast of changes and new acquisitions
  • Get a holistic view of technology being utilized in the business
  • Highlight opportunities for change management, with new releases of software
  • Ensure that new platforms are complementary and can be integrated
  • Get information on how platforms are being used and what they aim to achieve
  • Successfully manage business continuity so everyone knows who does what and when in the event of a disaster
  • Be transparent and share what they do in the business every day, which is useful for onboarding new staff seamlessly end efficiently
  • Capture the corporate knowledge that subject matter experts contribute to the organization before they leave
  • Have a full understanding of touchpoints by using system tagging within processes

Step out of the shadow of traditional IT

In my personal experience of helping organizations get the most value out of their process platform, business teams always do a better job of engaging their teams with BPM software, because they have a vested interest in the outcome.

As users take increased ownership of sourcing technology solutions and IT specialists are forced to reinvent themselves, this pattern may change. I look forward to seeing tech gurus step out of the shadows of IT: by using accessible processes to share their knowledge, the lack of collaboration between specialists and users can become a thing of the past.



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