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The upside of shadow IT

Julia King | April 24, 2012
First, a scary statistic: Gartner predicts that in less than three years, 35% of enterprise IT expenditures will happen outside of the corporate IT budget.

"What I'm still seeing is old waterfall methodology, checklists and big document requirements and business case documents and scope documents, which are all very heavyweight," he notes. "These are things that are made for large ERP projects or massive Cobol projects and don't take into account agile and rapid methods or the good lessons learned around iterative development and prototyping. IT's methods are old and need to be updated. The approaches to software building are antiquated."

Jim DiMarzio, CIO at Mazda North American Operations in Irvine, Calif., has found a way around this particular hurdle in the form of more "proof of concept" projects.

"IT people like getting involved in new technology, but they understand there's a risk and they don't want to be tagged with a technology that has failed," DiMarzio says.

"When we tag projects as 'proof of concept,' " he adds, "they understand it is something that we are trying [and may or may not ultimately deploy]."

-- Julia King

CNO's T64 application (T64 is short for Turning 64), for example, was developed by the company's independent agents who sell insurance door-to-door, mainly to retirees. The T64 app lets agents see on their mobile devices a list of potential clients who are turning 64 years old, along with directions to the clients' homes.

" 'We're in this together' is now much more than a tagline," says Rick Bauer, a former CIO and now director of product management at CompTIA, a provider of vendor-neutral certifications for IT professionals. "No one else is going to educate the enterprise about using devices in ways that boost productivity and in ways that are safe. IT has got to be a leader in helping people to think about these things."

Find your allies

If you're looking for shadow IT, one of the first places you'll find it is in the sales and marketing department, experts say. These front-line workers have little patience with time-consuming, checklist-laden application development cycles, which is what they have come to expect from IT. They want what they want, and they want it now. So they often gin it up for themselves.

"There's a disconnect between the traditional IT mindset and trying to get out a new application in a timely manner," notes PwC principal Chris Curran. "When a sales guy comes to IT and says, 'We need to get something out there now,' it can't take a year."

Curran advises PwC's clients to make friends with and learn from business users. More than likely, many have already been experimenting, especially with cloud-based apps for analytics and processing big data, he says.

At Genworth, Murray revamped the IT pay structure to reflect the value of building relationships with people outside of IT. As he sees it, knowing your partners in the business is part of IT becoming more agile.


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