From time to time I get plenty of articles written about a phenomenon known as Shadow IT. While the concept is not necessarily something that greatly bothers me, perhaps because I am a bit more jaded than most people when it comes to IT , it is at least a problem that I can understand. To put it somewhat directly for those who are not aware, Shadow IT (or Stealth IT) are technological solutions that are implemented without organizational approval or by departments other than IT. This may not necessarily seem very important to you, but Shadow IT had a rather important part on my day today and even though it is a subject that is somewhat esoteric and strange, I thought it would be worthwhile to share because if something happens to me and greatly impacts my own day, I figure that similar problems might be faced by other people who could possibly relate to them.
Let us set some context. A few months ago, I became a bit of a subject matter expert in working with a particular program that converts .pdf files to Excel files based on templates created by one of my coworkers, and as a result of using this program on a regular basis, I get a lot of requests for other people to convert their files as well. As it happens, this particular file was set up without the permission of IT on a box that is accessed via a remote connection, a box that is otherwise pretty rudimentary. After returning from the Feast of Tabernacles, I had a lot of catching up to do and yesterday I was asked by a coworker of mine to convert about half a dozen files. Having a bit of time today before lunch, I attempted this task and found that I could not even get the program to run at all. The rest of the day was spent dealing with the problem as there was a back and forth conversation which demonstrated that even if the software had originally been put into place without official approval, that it has become important enough to the processing of agent commissions that it needs to work, and soon. What was once a shadow IT solution has now come fully inside so that it may be embraced by those whose responsibility it is to make technology run smoothly.
In light of the irritation faced by dealing with this particular problem and others like it, it is fairly easy to see why Shadow IT happens. Let’s face it, many IT departments are slow at implementing solutions that are important for various departments in companies, and those departments can get impatient and try to do things for themselves as best as they are able. Equally naturally, IT departments are made up of people who are often pretty prickly themselves–something I can well understand–who are not very likely to give support when a department has implemented a solution without the blessing and approval of those who are the gatekeepers of technology within a company. The result of rogue implementation and a lack of enthusiastic support for the technological solutions chosen by company departments is that things do not work as well as they could work and resentment can build up between the IT department and other departments over the way that permissions are handled and the way that later changes made can interfere with the functioning of technology in the corporate environment.
This is symptomatic of larger problems. The rise of bureaucratic IT solutions, like the rise of bureaucracy in other areas of this world, has led to problems of rationing of time and resources to help the other areas of companies that need flexibility and timely response to troubleshooting. The desire for control in IT (and within corporate and political circles as a whole) does not appear to signal an acceptance of less centralized approaches to technology management. That said, those who need to get things done will simply not accept the slow pace of work that many people have to deal with in the contemporary business environment. What, then, is to be done? How are we to devote the resources that are necessary so that Shadow IT does not even need to happen because the legitimate IT processes are sufficient to address the needs and concerns of departments that are prone to go their own way until something is wrong and they need the help of the IT department in some fashion? Only the shadow knows, I suppose, how this is to be done in the contemporary business environment. Certainly it is far easier for me to see that there are problems than to understand what the solutions to those problems and the answer to those questions are.
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