Shadow IT an opportunity to innovate, suggests Claranet research

Greater alignment between IT and the business needed to harness potential of shadow IT

European organisations will only fully realise the benefits of shadow IT on innovation if IT leaders can align themselves more closely with other business units, research from managed services provider Claranet suggests.

The research, which surveyed 900 IT decision-makers from the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Portugal and the Benelux, from a range of mid-market organisations found that only a minority of European IT leaders view shadow IT as a challenge. Just 13 per cent of respondents stated that shadow IT was a major challenge, a significantly smaller proportion than those reporting security or complexity as a challenge (48 per cent and 39 per cent respectively).

For Claranet’s Group CIO, Andy Wilton, the results serve to overturn conventional wisdom that shadow IT is inherently problematic, suggesting instead that it can be a driver of innovation within an organisation.

Wilton commented:

We know that shadow IT is occurring in organisations of all sizes, but the jury is still out as to whether or not it is an intrinsically bad thing. Indeed, the data suggests that shadow IT isn’t the evil that many in the industry would have us believe; just 13 per cent of IT leaders view it as a major challenge, leaving a sizeable contingent that are either untroubled by it or, within reason, see it as a positive driver of innovation within their organisations. It’s an incredibly divisive issue, but whatever your view, the occurrence of shadow IT is often indicative of a larger issue: a disconnect between the IT department and the wider organisation.”

He continued:

Shadow IT does, however, present an opportunity to drive innovation, and businesses view the practice as an important source of feedback and service improvement. By monitoring employees’ use of unsanctioned programmes, IT leaders may discover unexpected benefits in their approach. By integrating those elements of shadow IT that have business value and eliminating potential pain points in the infrastructure, IT leaders could directly contribute to their organisations’ balance sheets.”

Wilton went on to say that building good relationships and understanding departmental needs is crucial to securing the benefits of shadow IT but also to containing any of the risks associated with it. He concluded:

Shadow IT is not going away, so IT leaders must work to ensure that, even if software is procured without their direct involvement, it is done in a controlled way to ensure efficiencies in spend and safeguard corporate data. Here, closer relationships and better understanding between IT and the wider business are critical, and it’s clear from our research that there is a great deal of room for improvement in that regard. Three quarters (74 per cent) of IT leaders report having an incomplete understanding of their organisations, and unless this knowledge gap is addressed, they will struggle to harness the potential of shadow IT.”

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