Friday, March 17, 2017

In Defense of Shadow IT

Spend any measurable amount of time listening to a vendor presentation, and you'll hear undoubtably hear the phrase "Shadow IT." If you're not familiar with the term, it's used to describe a situation in which users circumnavigate corporate or centralized technology teams and solutions in favor of other services, primarily public cloud services.

For example, a user may opt to deploy an application to AWS instead of going through the in-house development and operations channels. Or a developer might spin up some test applications in Google Cloud Platform because her IT organization didn't know their kubernetes from their vmkernels.

Vendors hold up Shadow IT as a perfect example of what's wrong with technology, namely cloud computing, and will happily share with you their solutions intended to stop it.

In the eyes of the vendor, shadow IT is the problem.

In fact, shadow IT is a solution. The real problem is officious, ineffective delivery organizations hellbent on dictating how IT should be consumed. More specifically, the real problem is IT organizations that, instead of listening to the needs of its customers, continue to offer the same catalogue of services from a decade ago.

Oh, you'd forgotten about HoJo? Me, too.
It's the same type of problem that forced Howard Johnson's restaurants to nearly disappear from the map: the problem wasn't that people weren't eating at HoJos, the problem was that HoJos had excruciatingly shitty food. No amount of begging customers to come back will make a difference when your product doesn't directly address their needs.

It's Not Your Customers, It's You

If you work in an organization that views shadow IT as a problem to be addressed, you work in a broken IT organization. Your users aren't the problem; you are. Users don't embrace shadow IT (and really, we shouldn't even call it that anymore, because users don't think to themselves, "I think I'll circumvent my company's IT policies and not use their servers," they think, "I need to get my work done and my company's IT shop can't, or won't, help me."), they embrace creative problem solving when faced with hang-wringing and stonewalling from their internal IT department.

IT exists to enable application delivery in support of the business. And application developers will find a way to deploy their apps no matter how incapable their IT shops may be.