Leadership

Control shadow IT in your organization

When renegade departments install new apps or programs without the IT department's knowledge or consent, IT managers can be left with a messy network situation. Read how TechRepublic members manage the problem of shadow IT.

When departments other than IT set up their own IT systems or applications, they can place an extra burden on IT personnel who may already be stretched thin, such as Help Desk folks and network administrators. The people who create this "shadow IT" problem don't understand that to effectively troubleshoot problems, control performance, and plan for necessary capacity, the IT department needs to understand every element of the data communication process throughout the network.

Awhile back, I asked if any members had encountered shadow IT in their organizations and, if so, how they managed it. From the mail I received, it appears that shadow IT is a common problem, and one that can have far-reaching consequences.

Member greenem7 described one situation in which her company hired a contractor to do some specialty projects for a particular department. His work was so good that, when his original contract was up, he was hired directly into the department.

"Before we knew it, he was developing projects and using tools not approved for company use, which the IT team would eventually end up maintaining," greenem7 said, adding, "For IT, it was extremely frustrating because he became the 'can do' guy, while he circumvented the usual IT request and project standards."

Member marti.a.mack experienced something similar. In her case, the contractor went away but left behind applications that required IT maintenance. "The applications usually didn't utilize standard third-party software, nor were they developed with a standard methodology."

I also heard from several members who maintain that shadow IT is a huge issue in medical environments. With the development of departmental information systems like Radiology IS and Laboratory IS, it's typical for vendors to sell their systems directly to the department and bypass IT.

In response to this trend, lpopove says the IT team adopted an Information Management Strategic Plan, which called for centralizing IT functions within the organization. Lpopove concedes, however, that adopting a plan and implementing it are two different things. Lpopove's department took a constructive approach by pointing out where it can do a better job and save money. "In effect, we're explaining to the director of Radiology, for example, that none of us in IT would make very good Radiology techs, and Radiology techs shouldn't be doing network support," Lpopove said. Member Greg_Law took another approach in the hospital where he works as IT manager. This medical center had clinical departments in which IS was managed by clinical staff. The departments' reasoning was that someone would have to understand the workflow to effectively administer their databases. Since the departmental database administrators were technical folks, the CIO created an expense budget that absorbed the clinical departmental database administrators' salaries and moved them into the IT shop. This turned out to be a win/win situation, according to Greg.

"The clinical departments had service expectations and techies supporting their hardware, which resulted in improved availability. They still had a clinical departmental database administrator looking after their specific interests, and the hospital saved money by eliminating questionable expenditures and centralizing the resources."

If it's not feasible to absorb the personnel cost, member John Nooten recommends having a departmental liaison to plan and manage the technology needs of each group. "This would give each group a better line of communication with IT and more say in their own destiny," which would discourage their breaking away and doing things on their own.

An IT department could go crazy trying to support products it doesn't know about. And just as bad, says Nooten, is trying to support a desktop or OS that's running software and OS configurations that are not familiar.

Nooten adds, "Renegade groups tend to do whatever they want. New applications implemented on a network without consideration for network impact can do everything from cause intermittent performance problems to bring a whole network to a grinding halt in the middle of critical business transaction processing."

He does concede, however, that there will be groups of employees who have a serious business need for a few specific products. His solution is to set up a standard OS install with the standard corporate desktop products on top of that. That becomes the standard image for each hardware platform, which lets IT have automated installs for those special products.

When a user has problems, and IT can't quickly resolve them, you can get the other users back up and running on the standard workstation image very quickly, then work with that user on his/her add-on programs. "Software distribution improves things a bit. You have an easier time being able to do a lot from a central location. You still need to have strict hardware standards, and for every different OS or basic OS image, you need to have different distribution packages created. It's easier, though, because you can create the install packages centrally, reducing required worker power and speeding the install process for the users," Nooten says.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

46 comments
ron
ron

Shadow IT's pop up mostly because business units do not prioritize accross the whole company. Business Managers each have their high priority items which mostly are all high. They hand those off to IT, which has to prioritize accross the whold company. That means that some high prioity items get dropped. Then Business Managers see that as IT being unresposive and take matters into their own hands. The problem is the same everywhere that I have seen. The only solution is for IT to involve the Business units in the priortization. IT should not be doing this without the business units. There also must be penaties for managers that don't play by the rules.....

doublet_kc
doublet_kc

I've been on both sides of this issue. In our organization, the key problem is that there are a few key individuals in IT who already "know" what everybody needs. This includes IT staff as well as user staff. And they give you what you "need". Requests for "unneeded" software and/or hardware are summarily rejected. This leads resourceful people to do whatever they must in order to get their jobs done.

weekley
weekley

If the organization you are in has more than a few "staff" meetings of disjoint groups of people. You need an IT presence or communication liaison with each one. Central IT must take the larger view of the organization and therefore cannot see the smaller groups needs the larger the org gets. Also the larger the org gets the larger Central IT will be and cannot respond as quickly as Distributed (Shadow) IT. DIT can and always will be able to look beyond the current situation for their smaller groups needs. There just needs to be real and honest open communication between the two groups with support from on top. The innovations will more than likely come from the DIT but the general business function will be the focus of CIT. The information just needs to flow and both sides take the other seriously. The DIT staffer might be from CIT but will work in their "domain" dept to provide for the innovation that will keep the company healthy and not become an IT (or business) dinosaur. A process can be worked on to move these innovations to the greater org level where the entire company can benefit and the pressure is off the DIT to support the whole thing and CIT can be on board whole time to protect the overall good of the org. But in the end BOTH exist ALL the time, they simply become disconnected when the org grows larger and the communication breaks down between the two groups and the upper echelon.

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

I was usually hired because of the failure of IT to address user needs. Years ago, I would frequently be called in for projects by desperate department managers who needed efficient applications done quickly and inexpensively. The reason for this was usually because their large and unresponsive IT departments that preferred to focus on large, complex and expensive all-encompassing ???big picture??? projects, and considered and treated department managers and their relatively small needs like annoying gnats that could be swatted away or just ignored. Departmental requests for customized services were usually discouraged by either quoting undeterminable or outrageous timeframes for development, or charging back unreasonable rates for the project. Actually, for years there was a kind of symbiosis that took place between myself and the IT department; Even though they knew I (and people like me) were there, they mostly ignored my presence since my demands upon them were mostly non-existent and my being there got the department out of their hair.

YourAverageManager
YourAverageManager

Help build a solution right here, right now. I jotted down a rough process, make it better if you are feeling up to it. Toss it and create a new one if you like! Find or cultivate an enlightened champion that will connect the executive decision makers. Research to find out the scale of SH~IT (Co, Dept, LOB, group or individual) Document all justifications for SH~IT events activities and efforts, (indicate Time, Quality, Dollars, or Other). Research and associate the costs in IT Support Identify the real business risks for each item or class, if any exist. Identify and agree where the problem resides, and agree on where the barrier to improvement resides (title and job function). This is the lowest level manager that holds both responsibility and control thus has the authority to implement the necessary change (in thought, action, or deed). Find and identify solutions that are realistic, can be implemented and achievable. You can and probably should include those individuals that are proponents of SH~IT in finding acceptable solutions. Have the highest level authority appoint a neutral individual possessing a wider perspective to arbitrate. Present the business case study ??? to the executive group, requesting a decision on the options presented Bring the stakeholders together and kickoff the AIR freshener program. AIR ??? Agreed Imaginative Response. Make sure that the business units understand that IT really wants to partner with them and is looking forward to being invited into their weekly operational meetings, at least the last 15 minutes in order to get a heads up advance notice and understanding of anything that impacts technology. Be clear that the IT individual representative must earn the right to attend such meetings, it is an honor to be invited, and not a privilege. Be prepared, be earnest, be engaged, be the best person in their corner, but also be a professional. Try to apply the never say "no" rule. This forces one to explain how a "yes" is not in their best interest; this allows them the opportunity to say "no" to themselves. Measure and report progress and achievements, share how individuals in IT are making a difference.

doke
doke

Been in the business too long. I've seen unresponsive IT that insisted on sticking with the one size fits all solution of mainframe applications. That stance forces people to think they have to find a way to work around IT. Water and electricity take the path of least resistance. In our last case, it was more of a matter of no new IT employees in 10 years. You might have noticed that things in the IT world have changed slightly in the last 10 years. The IT stance was based more on the IT people vainly trying to maintain their own sanity and support the changes to the existing stuff. I've also seen the other side of the coin. Where IT has the expertise and the willingness to help, but departments insist on sticking with a shadow IT staff person. One incident was a shadow person that was trying to get a mainframe emulation client to work. She spent two weeks going back and forth between offices trying to get the configs just the same. When she finally talked to someone in IT about it, the difference was that her system was XP, the system she was trying to configure was Win2000. She hadn't noticed the difference. In another IT has been trying to get more IT involvement with a department. They have an app that contacts another agency over a wireless card. IT purchased the systems and initially set them up in 2000. We found out the other day that the shadow IT guy hadn't managed to get them working. They had been waiting for the app problems to be solved for 7 years. IT rebuilt one of the machines and had it working in

ilowe
ilowe

Everyone knows the story - if password policies are reasonable, they improve security. if they become too draconian, everyone write their password down, and security overall gets worse. same with centralised IT departments - when they stop being enablers, and instead become the network "police", enforcing their own rules for empire building reasons, what do you expect - people will get the tools they need to do the job, DESPITE the IT department.

fractalzoom
fractalzoom

I was about to type a response to the effect of "Shadow IT exists because "Real" IT isn't doing it's job properly", when I saw a posting with that subject line. This is the fact! The Business spawns shadow IT projects when IT doesn't meet their needs and a smart person in the business figures out another way. It takes time to turn this dynamic around once it's been established, but as a general rule if the Business knows that IT will listen to them and will provide solutions to business problems, they won't be as inclined to go rogue. IT needs to build bridges, not walls.

NotSoChiGuy
NotSoChiGuy

At my former employer (health care organization), I was a member of one of the shadow groups. Each main business area (HR, finance, medical, supply chain) had one. The reasons these groups came into existence was primarily due to several of the reasons other posters have mentioned: lack of response from IT, draconian policies, etc. However, the corporate IT also suffered from hubris. They thought they knew more about 'stuff' than anyone else, and were out to prove it at every turn. They often tried to position themselves not only as system owners, but as process owners, as well (i.e., the ERP comes equipped to handle 'x' process this way...so instead of customizing the app to suit your needs, we want you to re-engineer your work to suit the ERP system). Sufficed to say, the functional areas ran to the hills (and rightfully so). During the end of my tenure, there was more partnering, which was definitely a good step. However, prior to that, it was like an IT civil war, and the casualties of course were the users. As others have posted, this is a direct indictment on p_ss poor leadership at the executive level. You have a CIO, CFO, Sr. VP of HR, etc, for the purposes of aligning the activities of the the groups with the goals of the organization. When you have p_ssing matches at the top, it filters all the way down. Yet, all of these types will have jobs while others below will get offshored, outsourced, outplaced, and outhoused. What a joke!

asperks
asperks

I had this very discussion today regarding CAD systems management. If you didn't know it, it's much the same thing. My experience on both sides of this fence has highlighted ways to address these problems, but it takes a re-think on roles, and in particular, methods about which you achieve your objectives. I'd have a couple of pieces of advice. Never assume you can develop a technical solution for a people problem. If you have people that feel they need to circumvent your responsibilities, and you are relying upon a technical solution to address it, you are already behind the eight ball. You are destined to fail. You need to solve the people problem first, and develop technical solutions to support business requirements. Second. It is better to have someone screw up your systems and you know about it as it is happening, than for them to circumvent all of your systems and for you to pick up the pieces long after the damage is done. If you can't change your infrastructure in order to cater for business needs, you need to get rid of the business need (which aint gonna happen) or modify your procedures to include the business need within your processes.

Notnerb
Notnerb

This problem can't be managed from the bottom. It MUST be managed from the top. As quite rightly put by a number of posters, Shadow IT occurs because the central IT group is not doing its job properly, and it starts at the top. It's not up to a bunch of siloed techo-heads in IT to enforce their baseless standards on the rest of the organisation. Standards need to be traceable right up to business strategy, goals, principles etc. If they are not, they can be (rightly) challenged. Aligning IT structure, people & processes to the business need starts with someone like the CIO. It means they are required to TALK to the business and ensure they are doing the right things. If they don't, then organisational IT costs will go up, and the CIO will be help accountable for this. So, the CIO must engage with the business and seek to demonstrate value in IT. Once that value is demonstrated, then the business will seek to engage in return. If this cycle persists (with a lot of very hard work), then shadow IT will start to disappear.

dconnolly
dconnolly

IT-Sage has it nailed. As a former CIO, I have seen first hand how the politics and management at the top either lead to customer satisfaction and support form IT, or a proliferation of shadow IT. However, it is the responsibility of the CIO to get hold of the business situation, develop the case for support, get the funding, and then instill the cultural behaviors that the IT staff need to exhibit to meet rational (which takes SLAs, negotiations, common sense, etc) needs of the customer. Gone are the days of poor IT service getting by. Unfortunately, if the CIO is unable to convince the business to fund IT to perform the work the business is asking for, then the shadows will creep in, and in the end , the business will get results they have not anticipated. Then a third party comes in and cleans house, outsources, and there is a healthy dose of pain to go around. So, if you are in IT, talk to your managers, help them build a solid business aurgument for doing things from a standard, customer focused, sLA driven standpoint, and get the CIO to sit down and listen to you....or look elsewhere for a job.

IT-Sage (bschirf)
IT-Sage (bschirf)

Shadow IT is a symptom of a root problem. It's caused by a corp-IT that is not fulfilling the needs of the organization. An unresponsive corp-IT is also a symptom of a root problem. It's caused by too much work being "thrown" at IT without proper planning and involvement in the planning process. But guess what... both of these are symptoms of a more incideous root problem. POOR MANAGEMENT AT THE TOP! (Both in IT, and the top of the Enterprise) Yes, IT needs to be involved in the planning process. Yes, IT needs more resources if you are going to expect more from them. But IT also needs to provide an environment within which the organization can be flexible. IT needs to plan to be the best option available so that depts would never think of not involving IT. Quality management throughout would never allow these situations to develop. They would never think of IT as the janitors of the organization. They would involve them, and then follow the usage-policies of IT. (Yes, exec mgmt should also follow these) IT should be involved from day-one... and in return IT should hold regular meetings with their CUSTOMERS (the user groups) to ensure they are fulfilling needs. $0.02

GregR
GregR

This man speaks the truth. The day senior management realizes the importance of IT input is the day everyone's lives get better.

Danny Graham
Danny Graham

I whole heartedly agreed that this is the root cause. A problem though can be the calibre of people involved at all levels from the top down and sadly, often some politics. It amazes me how often it can be just a couple of key individuals within an organisation who can mess IT up for other people in the business. And how difficult they can be to remove. And proper funding can be a problem (though a user should have to show that there will be a proper return on an investment).

Dyalect
Dyalect

Unless you have proper processes and test/development environments you will always have this shadow IT issue. 1. Systems should be locked down. No local admin widespread throughout the organization. 2. Systems should be inventoried so you are aware what is on the network. 3. When vendors/developers/contracters are called in, the IT staff should be APART of the process. Not called when the vendor leaves and something is broken. FYI

Dave the IT Dude
Dave the IT Dude

I was employed by a major branch office 300-odd kilometres away from head office - for which the IT department was grossly under-funded. The branch office needed support that they did not get - and in frustration I was employed on a long-term contract (i.e. over 3 years) solely to look after IT by the three branches based there. I ran a tight ship IT wise, but as I was "competition", the main IT people spent more time playing politics than trying to work with me - which was a pity as I ended up looking after quite a few other branch offices that were also suffering from lack of support. I tried to stick with standards where I knew they existed - but they weren't exactly easy to find. Except for the politics, I don't blame the main IT section - they were over-worked and under-funded. However, you can not blame the people that employed me either - they were getting zero support while trying new technologies (due to a business need). They had to do something and took the only option they had - even if it cost them money. Sometimes shadow IT suggests the organisation has a more deep-rooted problem than just a bunch of rebels doing their own thing.

rons
rons

I have problems controlling software design/development engineers who appear hell bent on proving how much more knowledgeable and capable they are. They do have almost unique skills so see themselves as immune from disciplinary action but see system imposed restrictions as a challenge to their ego. How does anyone else deal with their software departments?

Danny Graham
Danny Graham

Software Developers are unusual in that they are usually capable of installing and supporting themselves in terms of their toolsets, applications and operating systems. So in that sense they shouldn't increase the burdern on your core IT. I would suggest that you work out where it matters than you nail them down and where it doesn't and adjust your policy accordingly. Retention of developers is hard at the best of times so give them an environment where they feel that they have the freedom to be creative and use the tools that they need to use - if necessary create a sandbox within your network for them. Where you probably do need to nail them down is in areas of possibly illegal activity such as pier to pier sharing networks (they're often the worst offenders for this sort of thing) and improper use of company email (let them use hotmail or whatever instead). Additionally - you clearly need them to use the right tools where it would cause problems for group working and process (eg: source control / bug tracking etc). But most developers when given responsibility for their freedom will understand why and refrain from improper use naturally - whilst you gain from an enlightened policy that allows them to select the tools of their choice that streamline productivity.

Danny Graham
Danny Graham

Shadow IT usually occurs in organisations where IT departments have stopped seeing themselves as service providers to their business users and instead have become either unresponsive or network / database power brokers. This is extremely common - and in my area (management accountancy) extremely frustrating. The IT dept doesn't feel the accountants pain which is incredible when at month end they are working twelve hour days to close the books. Little wonder then that technologically savvy accountants get fed up waiting for IT and go solve the problems themselves.

w2ktechman
w2ktechman

just trying to order SW that is a need for business use goes through a dozen approvals and takes weeks/months. IT makes changes without consultation/informing us that puts data at risk, and our helpdesk is very likely to either tell you to fix it yourself or just hang up. IT changes policies regularly, however does not update documentation for how to place a request or who to send it to. So every 'urgent' issue needs to go up the management chain, and once again, takes days or weeks. A couple of weeks ago, an urgent issue arose where a large shared drive was given full access by everyone in the company, including contractors and business partners. This drive housed confidential company information and needs to have access only by a small few people. I went up the management chain while simultaneously took back channels to remove all access and allow me to re-assigne permissions. 5 days AFTER I had reassigned access, an IT person contacted me via email and said that they could do nothing, and I needed to transfer the 150GB of data to my local drive until I could figure something out. That was a Priority 1 call (which the helpdesk originally told me that they could not place a ticket for). It is reasons like this that shadow IT exists. When IT becomes THE PROBLEM instead of working on finding solutions, everyone needs to become their own IT.

Danny Graham
Danny Graham

I should clarify. I work for a third party software house. Our software is for use by Management Acountants. The story of IT Department intransigence isn't restricted to just one of our clients - its the same story across around 30-40% of them. For some reason its particularly endemic in businesses that use Oracle DB platforms! Don't ask me why that is - I really have no idea!

mikieh86284
mikieh86284

Perhaps the problem is the use of the Oracle DB platforms or the level of training in the company to maintain and the Oracle DB platforms. Strange that problems in many clients have Oracle in common. Perhaps the unresponsiveness comes from an IT group that is out of the picture as they have no representation at the executive or management meetings. That lets inexperienced (in IT and phones) go-getters set unrealistic goals based on who knows what set of data. Just read some the posts here.

Danny Graham
Danny Graham

In fairness, it isn't just oracle sites, but it is a common factor that occurs more than you'd expect. Oracle DBAs rightly exert quite a stiff control over what happens on their servers both in terms on tables and jobs but also in terms of patches and upgrades. Because this often isn't the individuals only role the mindset can trickle over in to other areas such as software procurement.

renevelasco
renevelasco

I am in IT and was an Accountant. My department here gave us the same reasons. Now they created so many siloed applications that do not share dat.These applicatoin has caused them more time to their to close the books and made us less responsive to the rest of the company. So who wins?

alan.canellis
alan.canellis

Is IT invited to your staff meetings? I wish we had a crystal ball.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

We received a request to provide communications and equipment for a new office in another state. The request was to have the eight-man office operations within three weeks of the request, although space had not even been leased yet. The manager had been hired the day before and wasn't sure of his exact needs; he hasn't hired any of the other people yet. AT&T has a six-week lead time for the WAN connections, and they ain't going to schedule you without a street address, Bubba.

ptolio
ptolio

You hit the nail right on the head there. Inefficiencies abound aroud here. Unfortunately I am just Tech Support - why would anyone want to listen to me?

L-Mo
L-Mo

I work for a large Law Firm. They supply and pay for my Black berry. It is their property and they explicitely state that. They also let us flat out know that they audit everything. As an employee I make a decision: "Do I want to keep my job" It's not IT's role to fix that part. It sounds to me like you need management that understands how much money is wasted.

GregR
GregR

The fact that you seem to believe a consumer-level DSL/Cable connection is a substitute for a business-class WAN setup is proof that "tech savvy" non-IT employees shouldn't be permitted to make tech decisions. The actual moral goes something like this: If people don't ask IT before making decisions, they really don't have any right to complain later.

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

is remote sales...each of them have their own "pet" mobile computing system for email (smartphone, blackberry etc...). No one ever asked me, no one even tells me until there is a problem. One salesman wanted me to turn our Exchanges server into an open relay, so he could send through our server "from anywhere" since that s what Verizon told him needed to happen... I gave him our Pop3 info..again.. And all of them want to juggle 5 email addresses and 6 profiles from any device... It got to the point that if I did not assign the address, I refused to help. I would have them set up to send/receive work email on a work device, then they would break it adding yahoo....

ptolio
ptolio

Palmetto, I feel your pain.... All too familiar a situation - management making decisions and expecting the impossible without any input from the Tech Dept. Makes for restless nights and migranes!

HaGingi
HaGingi

So the office opened up, and they needed a connection so a can do kinda guy went out and got a DSL/Cable connection, and they hopped over to OfficeMax and picked up a printer or two, and they've been complaining every since... The moral of the story: Customers need IT solutions. IT should try to provide 'em

print4u
print4u

Purchasing buys a new wonderful MFP without consulting their IT staff who may or may not know it is there untill....a problem arises. Do what every one else does, control access. I can't install a local driver or program if the machines are properly locked down and need admin account to install stuff.

jmarkovic32
jmarkovic32

Department X decides on a piece of software and find out that they can't install it without IT. What do they do? They call IT. What is IT supposed to say? "Sorry guys, but we can't support software we don't know about. So you spent $50,000 on that software? Can you get a refund?" I wish it worked that way. The dept manager calls the CIO and cries and next thing you know I'm taken off of a key project to screw around with a piece of software I know nothing about. Not one piece of hardware or software should be purchased without IT's blessing. If the business unit really needs it, then it should have no problem getting approved. You have to look at it this way: If a BU requested a piece of software that costs $50,000 and Accounting says, "No, we don't have the money." No one runs to the CEO and says, "Bububub Accounting says we don't have the money! We really need this software!" If you don't have the money you don't have the money. What would happen if somehow Accounting was circumvented and a piece of software that the company couldn't afford was purchased? Would the burden be thrown on the CFO to "scratch up the money" to pay for it? Hell no. Folks would get suspeneded or fired for circumventing Accounting. Why can't it be the same with IT? Anything that goes on a computer or connects to a computer has to go through IT at some point in the process.

L-Mo
L-Mo

There seems to be a bit of a p_ssing contest that goes on sometimes. IT does need to be included in the discussion but they don't drive decisions; The business goals do. Good Management (at the highest levels) takes this into account. If finance needs a particular software to be more productive then management should have a powwow and determine the best way to role it out; Thus reaching a mutually agreable timeline and role out procedure. If this occurs then each manager can direct their staff. Finance will reign in those eager to jump the gun and IT can deligate staff to learn how to support the software. In the end, as a tech, I know things change and so must I.

angry_white_male
angry_white_male

As someone at the Director/CIO level - shadow IT can and WILL drive up the cost of IT for the entire organization - not to mention expose the organization to a plethora of liability and vulnerability. If your organization is governed by regulatory requirements such as SOX, HIPAA, etc... the bar must be raised even higher. We're talking about workstations locked down by group policy, MAC authentication on the network, etc... etc... "Draconian" policies are there for a reason. IT security trumps all - I don't care who you are or how much you make, the rules apply to everyone. I'm sure many of you have seen what your mom, sister, friend, etc... did to their own computers because they could - and much of it was done, not out of malice, but out of carelessness and ignorance. My last job - there was a culture of shadow IT until we finally went to our CEO and told him enough was enough. These days, no project - I repeat NO project, no matter what it is, even if it has nothing to do with IT, moves forward without the blessing of IT. Wanna dig a hole in the parking lot? Not without IT making sure there isn't fiber or a 100-pair running through that area. IT systems are too fragile and vulnerable to let employees have full run of the systems. Recovering from an employee's carelessness can have untold costs to the company - not to mention legal ramifications depending on the extent of the problem - and if it caused a data breach. On top of that - there are costs for IT. Help desk techs aren't free. Most of the time they're busy doing their job. You're not always going to get immediate answers or someone deskside at a moment's notice. Many organizations see IT as a low-priority business expense, and don't invest in the operating costs and capital expenses required to keep IT up and running. Nevermind the fact that most business and manufacturing processes are dependent upon a robust IT infrastructure to keep it up and running. IT has to be considered a high priority business investment. One the money is in place, the necessary support infrastructure can then keep things running to the satisfaction of the end user.

techrepublic
techrepublic

finance had this same position for a while: everything in the company should be run through them to be sure the company is financially healthy. Same with HR, same with law. I guess it makes sense that IT would believe that every company decision should also go through them. The company provides a product or service; this defines the organization's mission. IT should help support that mission and efficiently and effectively as possible. When any group, (finance, law, HR, IT) says that they are more important than the mission, the group is looking to make its job easier not to make the company better.

NotSoChiGuy
NotSoChiGuy

...I find that the core problem is that many organizations operate their units so they look like vertical bar graphs, as opposed to Venn diagrams. Like I alluded to in my other post in this thread, this is really an indictment of executive leadership from all core functions in the organization. Also, while security and standards are absolute necessities (especially in regulated areas...I've worked for firms operating under SEC and HIPAA and witnessed consequences for failing to comply); there is also a point where it goes too far (in an InfoSec class, they talked about determining risk appetite as almost an art form as opposed to an exact science). For example, there were only two types of systems considered 'standard' at my former employer; one laptop and one desktop. Well, that is fine for about 85% of the populace, but what about the graphic designers, coders, architects, etc, that needed different configurations? They were told they were pretty much on their own, since anything non-standard would not be supported. That is exactly how shadow groups get started. That is poor leadership. I can't speak for others in the thread...but when I mentioned 'draconian', that is what I was referring to...policy and security beyond the point of reasoning. The existence (or even attempt at creation) of shadow IT groups should be an alert to executive leadership that they are failing the organization in some fundamental way. Attempts should be made to understand and address why/how they came into existence, and not just at 'snuffing them out' like a campfire. It's a cliche, but there really does need to be a better sense of partnering between IT and other areas of the organization (your example of involving IT in all projects is a good one). Unfortunately, as you point out, this isn't always the case.

NotSoChiGuy
NotSoChiGuy

Thankfully! :) I fully agree, IT should be positioned to be able to accommodate the needs of the users in accordance to the goals of the firm. The employer I mentioned DEFINITELY needs to review their leadership in several key areas. Funny thing is that they do employee satisfaction surveys, that speak to the ability/inability of management...and despite some record low scores, nothing was done. No corrective action, no reassignments, nothing. One of the reasons I moved on, actually!

angry_white_male
angry_white_male

It all boils down to executive leadership and how much lattitude they give their IT folks to do their job, and how much corporate/strategic direction they're given to ensure they're doing their job. A good IT dept will be able to accomodate the needs of various groups (i.e., the "power users"). Perhaps your company needs to take a closer look at their IT leadership.

tedeansiii
tedeansiii

I work at a college and we have some folks who hate change and the professors have tenure so theres not much we can do when they become ornery so we end up sometimes having to play hardball with them by not supporting stuff. they dont want to move to the new office package well if you have a problem we dont support that anymore you have to get the new package installed. things like this we have no control over, people jumping over the chain of authority and its just a mess.

geekstrap
geekstrap

Ego is the problem on both sides of the fence. Finger pointing without a resolve is fuel on the fire. If either side wants to help the company put the blame on IT and then don't be a dork because you can. Help with in the rules the company has made. Both sides need to meet to resolve the need/fix. Then IT serves according to the company service level sent down from VP level. If you don't have VP power or support find a new job.

L-Mo
L-Mo

Pardon my forwardness but if you are fully conscious that you are doing wrong then why do it? I know the obvious, ?because I can?, but when your company has policies everyone should follow them. I?m no Saint but we should all be professional. As a tech I advocate a lot of different restrictions, within reason, but it usually also benefits the bottom-line. I'm not always agreed with, but most companies will lean towards making more money in less time. Wouldn?t you?

Ian Thurston
Ian Thurston

The reality is that software changes on the ground far faster than most IT departments can or should anticipate. "We can't turn on a dime" is a response I hear a lot - and they shouldn't be expected to. Which is not to say that they should hew to the "Not Invented Here" line which is a sure recipe for hardening of the the IT arteries. I'd say the best approach for a realistic IT department is to develop the skills and tools to accommodate third party work, rather than pretending to one-size-fits-all expertise.

L-Mo
L-Mo

You're right. I fully agree that if IT doesn't provide a user with what they need this dynamic occurs.