CIOs: Don’t lose your cool over shadow IT

CIOs: Don’t lose your cool over shadow IT

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The Changing Role of CIOs

When you discover instances of shadow IT in your organization, you have two choices. You can force a quick decision to exert control or avoid responsibility. Or you can turn shadow IT into an opportunity to partner with a business unit. I think looking at shadow IT as an opportunity is the way to succeed, especially if you’re new to the job. Here’s why.

If you’re just starting at an organization, you can’t do everything. If you find that the business has implemented an IT solution on its own, and those efforts are proceeding reasonably well, you don’t necessarily want to bring it to a halt because the business probably needs that capability.

On the other hand, it’s good to at least have a conversation up front about the implications of what your business is doing by going around IT. Acknowledge that while IT may not be fully able to deliver on the business needs now, at some point in the future it’s going to make sense to fold their efforts back into IT. Let the business know you want to plan together to make that as simple as possible. You can also turn shadow IT into an opportunity by helping the business with information security or by folding incident management for their solution into your operations organization.

In addition, you may be able to identify areas in your business that are just considering a shadow IT initiative. You can put a specially targeted team against that opportunity and make them one of your early successes.

If you choose to do this, you have to be very thoughtful. You don’t want to make the rest of the organization feel like second-class citizens. You don’t want to overemphasize the early success, because you’re really trying to solve the problem for the entire organization. But this is an example of capability demonstration that you may need to gain credibility in the rest of the organization.

You want to be able to say “We don’t have the capability yet to solve everybody’s problems but here’s an example of what we’ve been able to do for the XYZ organization. And over time as our capabilities grow and we become more efficient, we can deliver those capabilities to others, as well.”

Lee Congdon is CIO of Red Hat. His role includes enabling Red Hat’s business through services, such as knowledge management, technology innovation, technology-enabled collaboration, and process improvement.

Lee Congdon is Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer at Ellucian, the leading independent provider of higher education software, services and analytics.

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