CIOs Need To Know How To Get Rid Of Their “Shadow IT” Department

by drjim on December 4, 2013

The shadow IT department is the one that the CIO doesn't know about

The shadow IT department is the one that the CIO doesn’t know about
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As the person who has the CIO job, you’d like to think that you have things under control That when the rest of the company has an IT need they’ll come to you, ask your permission to do something, and then live with whatever you tell them. The reality is a bit different. If you tell someone that they can’t do something related to technology, all too often you’ll be contributing to building a “shadow IT” department in your company that you don’t have any control over. Sure sounds like you’ve got to find out what’s going on here…

How A “No” Builds The Shadow IT Department

Welcome to the world in which IT is no longer seen as being some mysterious magical place. Now that everyone in the company understands the importance of information technology and each of them has access to iPhones and iPads, they all assume that solving technology related work problems is as simple as downloading another app. That’s why they no longer understand it when they are told “no” by the IT department when they make a request.

As the CIO what you are going to have to understand is that whenever someone in the IT department tells somebody who is making a request for help “no”, that does not mean that that person’s need has gone away. All it means is that they now know that your department is not going to be helping them to solve their problem. What they do know is that if IT won’t help them, then the shadow IT department will.

We all know what this shadow IT department consists of. It includes unsanctioned devices, services, and applications. A great example of this is the use of Dropbox (the file sharing service) in the workplace. Yes, your corporate users understand that it may not be secure; however, it solves their problem and they know how to use it so they are going to go ahead and make use of it.

It’s Time For Some Governance

In addition to teaching your IT staff to stop saying “no” and start listening to their user’s underlying needs, you are also going to have to establish a governance steering committee in order to evaluate technology requests and the associated risks that come along with each such decision.

The key to a successful governance committee is to make sure that it is made up of representatives from the company’s finance department, legal department, and each of the various business units. It’s critical to have all of these voices involved so that everyone believes that their needs have been accounted for.

The output of any governance committee has to be a set of policies that are clear and easy to understand. It can be all too easy to create a set of “legal speak” documents that are correct and complete but which which nobody can understand. Keep your IT policies simple, short, and easy to read.

What All Of This Means For You

On top of everything else that the person in the CIO position needs to worry about, it turns out that if your department becomes known for saying “no” to many times, then you’ll just be helping to develop a “shadow IT” department.

This shadow IT department will be where your users get what they wanted in the first place without any help from you. You can prevent this from happening by training your IT department to stop telling people “no” and instead starting to work with them to understand the problems that they are trying to solve. Ultimately you are going to need some form of governance in order to allow all of the other departments in the company to have a say in what types of IT processes are performed. Make sure that the policies that you ask the company to live by are simple and easy to understand.

Once you realize that your users have real-world needs and that they’re not going to let you stand in their way, you’ll be on your way to changing how the IT department works with them. Make your IT department shine bright and you’ll be able to get rid of your shadow IT department.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: If you inherit a shadow IT department when you become CIO, what should your first steps be?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

I’m currently in charge of a department of skilled IT professionals. They each have their own set of skills that they bring to my company and I need each of them to be operating at peak efficiency if I want to have any hope of my company using the importance of information technology in order to become a success. However, I’m currently facing a big problem: two members of my team flat out don’t get along with each other. What’s the person with the CIO job to do?

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