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Shadow IT Is Out of the Closet

Shadow IT, secret transactions where parts of the business would hire outside contractors to create some technology or application, isn't such a secret anymore. In fact, it's out in the open and has a brand new name: departmental IT. This post by Jill Dyche on the Harvard Business Review blog explains what IT needs to assess for damage control after departmental IT has caused a stir. But as Dyche points out, the IT department has enough to do already: It's not as if IT departments aren't busy. It's just that they're often busy doing what they've always done, maintaining operational systems while reacting to the demands of an increasingly tech-savvy user community. Cumbersome legacy system maintenance, hardware and software upgrades, and tire-kicking in the name of research take up far too much of IT's time–time that could be spent building valuable business applications. Show me an IT department at a 30 year-old Fortune 500 company and I'll show you a large group that is supporting increasingly costly, outdated, and unwieldy infrastructures with no time to focus on driving revenues and enhancing the company's brand. The problem stems from business not being able to particularly understand what IT is doing. As corporate governance expands into IT, certain operations (such as infrastructure and maintenance) are “'black holes' where money goes in, and nothing comes out”, according to Dyche.   Pin these against the more agile, controlled projects of departmental IT and you see why the traditional IT department is struggling to maintain its foothold. What IT needs is a facelift, and that facelift can be to make it more of a process creator, according to Dyche. By implementing   a “structured taxonomy to proposed IT initiatives based quantifiable metrics like complexity, breadth of need, and return on investment”, IT can prove that what it's doing is transparent and valuable to the rest of business.   IT can also make room for itself to invest 10 percent of money that would otherwise go to infrastructure into innovation, keeping ahead of the pull for departmental IT and making sure they are the answer that business wants to call on.

About Anne Grybowski

Anne is a former staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success, with a degree in Media Studies from Penn State University.

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