by James Keating III, Business Technology Architect, Evolving Solutions
Shadow IT (or skunkworks as it was referred to at a few places I have been throughout my career) is a fact of IT. For those who don’t know what it is, the definition from an internet search to Wikipedia reads:
Shadow IT a term often used to describe IT systems and IT solutions built and used inside organizations without explicit organizational approval.
In the past this was people setting up clandestine labs, or putting virtualization software on company laptops to run a different operating systems. Today with the reality of cloud infrastructure and cloud services, a shadow IT initiative can be full development environments, complete business analytics or any number of things that used to require full IT involvement to have even the slimmest chance of happening. Now, a person with a credit card or expense account and an email address can stand up vast amounts of storage, computing power with software included. What is even more interesting is often times real data that may contain sensitive items can be quickly put out onto these systems.
Whenever I have run into shadow IT in my career it is always a result of people wanting to do the correct thing for the business, but feeling normal process would be too cumbersome to allow them to innovate or get the results they need. So rather than work within the system, people work around the system. So from a business perspective, this is a double edged sword. As a business I want innovation and better results to drive revenue, however I don’t want risks to my brand, product, data etc. So often times the culture is relaxed about the fringed technology efforts until something bad happens. This may not be a solid plan. Conversely I have seen the lock down everything strategy as well, however this often creates more shadow IT efforts than it prevents due to the reasons people choose to go shadow in the first place.
In the world of cloud, I am of the opinion that IT needs to be aware of the cloud shadow IT going on, but they also must understand that elimination of it may not be possible or the best result for the company. As such I recommend visibility and visibility tools into cloud delivered services that may be part of shadow IT efforts. For example, Amazon Web Services, is likely being consumed in some manner at most medium to large companies regardless of if it is fully blessed by IT. This creates the data risk I mentioned above but it also creates accounting and cost of IT metrics to be skewed. So if I could know what and how much AWS is going on, that would be beneficial to both IT and the company as a whole.
So how does an IT professional get visibility like this into AWS? The answer is actually to work with a reseller. I know this answer may seem counter intuitive, “I can get more visibility into AWS when I purchase it through a reseller?”. The answer is yes and if you want to know more about the mechanics of this contact me or Evolving Solutions and we can go through it with you, however the details are too much for a blog post. The second question I know many are asking is “sure but how much more will this cost me over going direct?”. Again the answer may seem contrary to conventional wisdom, but the answer should be $0.00 more.
So if you are scratching your head at this point, I understand, and yes that last paragraph is correct. To better understand this, it is best explained over the phone or in person. If you would like to know more don’t hesitate to contact Evolving Solutions.
James Keating III is a Business Technology Architect for Evolving Solutions. James is a technology leader in the IT community and brings a combination of excellent technical skills and business acumen which allows him to guide customers in developing IT solutions to meet business requirements.