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By Doug Garaux, Architect, Cloud & Data Center Consulting, Logicalis US

Admit it. You’ve thought about it before.

Maybe you even had your cursor on the button—just one click, you thought, heart racing. Just one click and this shiny, sexy new public cloud service is mine.

Don’t worry. Your secret is not only safe with us, it’s perfectly understandable.

Because the temptation of public cloud services is powerful: instant access to state-of-the-art business tools. What organization can’t use that?

For users who can’t afford to wait for IT to fulfill their needs, such forbidden fruit are often too much to resist. Consider these alarming statistics:

  • 31% of CIOs globally are routinely bypassed by line-of-business (LOB) managers
  • 90% of CIO find themselves skipped over by LOB managers at least some of the time

We all know it as Shadow IT.

And if you’re wondering why your peers seem so freaked out about it, it’s because it represents a seismic shift for the role of technology within enterprise organizations—and a lot of risk, too.

Previously, the IT department controlled all data and technology. If LOB managers needed something, they had to ask IT. This could lead to frustration and lost opportunities if IT couldn’t deliver fast enough or couldn’t deliver a certain set of features.

Cloud changed that. Now, Dropbox or Slack or Salesforce (or a million other desirable services) are just a click away. If IT takes too long or seems like they can’t pull it off, LOB managers can fire up their browsers and provision services in minutes.

Which brings us to the big questions:

Why should LOB managers wait for the IT department to deliver something when their hot opportunity is slipping away every second?

Especially when the service they can get instantly is better than what their IT department could muster?

Why It Has Such a Scary Sounding Name

Before we answer that, let’s address why Shadow IT is so frightening.

Every time a user steps outside of IT’s control—uploading a file to the public cloud, implementing a new application, provisioning a development server on Amazon Web Services—it creates risk.

Risk that sensitive information could be made accessible, either through uploading it to a non-secure location or unwittingly creating a new opening for hackers, malware, and the rest of their kind.

Plus, end-users don’t always know what’s best for them.

Part of the evolution of the IT professional, spurred on by public cloud, is that they have had to become experts at how technology and business intersect. You’re now expected to be able to assess and recommend the right application or solution to enable your business, not just understand how to implement and manage it. When users are picking their own technologies, it robs you of this essential area of expertise.

What You Can Do About It

Now that we’ve established why Shadow IT is dangerous for your business, let’s go back to the big question—why should users wait for IT departments instead of provisioning cloud services?

The truth is they shouldn’t.

Shadow IT isn’t exactly a problem. It’s a symptom of slow IT responses. Of manual processes. Of disparate infrastructure. Of convoluted, scatter-shot management, and the other pitfalls of the last decade-or-so of IT.

You don’t need to eliminate public cloud solutions from your organization, you need to find ways embrace them. Ways to route users’ consumption of these solutions through IT, not around it. And ways to speed up or automate IT responses as much as possible.

It’s about putting yourself in the role of a service broker or solution provider—one that helps select the right cloud solutions and works to implement them within the context of your own IT infrastructure. You need to create a seamless and endlessly-scalable system that connects LOBs to the cloud services they want, but with the IT department as the connector, enabler, and overseer of it all.

What that means is a new kind of data center, one that’s prepared to leverage cloud to the fullest. With virtualization applied across the board to both simplify management and enable the flexibility you need to bounce workloads across clouds and on-premises environments.

This kind of highly-virtualized, abstracted environment is called a software-defined data center (SDDC). We like to think of it as the panacea for Shadow IT and other symptoms of too-slow, outdated IT approaches.

Not only does it enable integration with public cloud, it speeds and streamlines processes across all your IT with automation, orchestration and self-service portals.

That said, SDDC is a big change. But it’s one that can be made smoothly and cost-effectively with the right strategy.


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