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Sunday, July 1, 2007

The Shadow IT Department Drives Enterprise 2.0 Adoption

Some organizations understand the impact of the new Web 2.0 technologies in an enterprise context (Enterprise 2.0) and try to exploit them to their full potential. Other organizations might realize the potential benefits of these new technologies, but choose not to embrace them since they do not want to deal with the challenges they present to them in terms of security, compliance, etc. And then there are organizations that simply choose to see these new technologies as a nuisance, something which their employees should not deal with during working hours. But even when facing resistance for their management, employees who have already made instant messaging, social software, tagging, blogs and wikis to a part of their (work) life will find their way around to use these technologies. There is no way an IT department can stop (only hinder) them from using tools and technologies that they consider valuable.

Ben Worthen argues in an article in CIO that "the consumer technology universe has evolved to a point where it is, in essence, a fully functioning, alternative IT department." He calls it the Shadow IT department, "a natural product of the disconnect that has always existed between those who provide IT and those who use it...//...The era in which IT comes only from your IT department is over…//…Today, in effect, users can choose their technology provider. Your company’s employees may turn to you first, but an employee who’s given a tool by the corporate IT department that doesn’t meets his needs will find one that does on the Internet or at his neighborhood Best Buy…//…”There’s a simple golden rule,” says David Smith, a vice president and research fellow at Gartner. “Never use security and compliance as an excuse for not doing the right thing. Never use these as sticks or excuses for controlling things. When you find that people have broken rules, the best thing to do is try to figure out why and to learn from it.”

In an article in ITNews.com.au by J. Nicholas about the good and bad of web 2.0 tools, looks at the same phenomenon from a slightly different perspective:

“Even as Microsoft and IBM keep expanding their Web 2.0-style collaboration capabilities--with social networking tools like Lotus' Connections and Microsoft SharePoint Server 2007's support for blogs, wikis, and calendar sharing--many companies are concluding that one platform won't be enough…//…"If I do everything in Microsoft, what does that do to your modularity, to flexibility?" says Schueller, whose title is innovation manager in P&G's Global Business Services. "I wouldn't generalize that just to Microsoft. It's all the big vendors." IT also needs to learn how to incorporate tools employees bring in themselves, he says”

Diann Daniel asks if the enterprise is afraid of web 2.0 because these technologies are brought in from “the consumer space”:

“Web 2.0 can be especially challenging for CIOs and IT executives since its growth represents what some may consider "shadow IT." "Web 2.0 is a revolution," says Stowe Boyd, a consultant on social technologies and business and a senior consultant with Cutter Consortium. "It challenges a lot of base assumptions people have about how to operate in the world." Or how the world is supposed to operate. Unlike what IT executives are used to, "Web 2.0 technologies are coming in from the consumer space, and it's an interesting reversal," says John Hagel, longtime Web 2.0 consultant and chairman of an upcoming Deloitte research center on Web 2.0 and other technologies…//…Web 2.0 challenges the core assumptions about information in the corporation—who gets it, who owns it, and who has power because they have it. And that's a really scary thing for people used to controlling it. "Part of the job of a CIO is to create policies that prevent artificial pockets of power based on secrets and individuals exploiting power and not sharing it," says JP Rangaswami CIO of Global Services at British Telecom, a passionate supporter of Web 2.0 and open source. "Personally I want to see those pockets of power destroyed." “

Here are some (typical) voices about the void that so often exists between users and the IT department:

“I remember that when I used to work at Orange, many of my most useful tools were things I “wasn’t allowed” to have on my computer. I also remember that when I got really bad RSI and using dictation software was the only way to get me back to work, the IT department flat-out refused our request for Dragon. (Somebody actually said that if I couldn’t type anymore, they should just get rid of me.) My boss had to have a chat with somebody else’s boss to finally have the program installed on my computer” (Stephanie Booth)

“I’m not about to reveal what we do at MPOW, but if I went back to high lock-down on our PCs, I’d probably go completely mad. Our high-lockdown doesn’t even allow right mouse-clicks in the windows environment!!” (Gillian)

It is clear that in many organizations, the adoption of Enterprise 2.0 technologies is in fact driven by "the shadow IT department". To close the divide between the IT department and shadow IT department (the users), IT management must pay more attention to and listen to the users in the enterprise, realizing that the users often are one or two steps ahead of the IT department and already have evaluated and adopted tools and technologies that the IT department might now be considering.

The top-down approach that is commonly used when the objective is to support critical business processes with IT infrastructure and business applications must be complemented by a bottom-up approach, especially when it comes to communication, collaboration and productivity tools and technologies. The bottom-up approach is much more relying on the IT management getting aware of individual needs and initiatives and to encourage experimentation on grass-root level than on building big business cases for the management. But regardless of which approach is taken, the IT management must always make sure that it listens to the users in the enterprise to collect their ideas and experiences on how IT can support them in their daily work.

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