Shadow IT isn’t anything new; it is part of human behavior and started with the first mini-computers in family homes. People will always choose the tools that help them do their jobs in the simplest and most efficient way. Unfortunately, when that means using unsanctioned technologies, well intentioned selections can have unintended and potentially dangerous consequences for the company.  These can include: increased security risks, diminished productivity, and increased costs. Additionally, when users select their own cloud services, they inadvertently create silos of information that IT is not unaware of, and potentially create data compliance issues.   By purchasing cloud services on an ad hoc basis, users limit the company’s ability to negotiate volume pricing.

IT leaders and other executives need to make it their responsibility to find out which cloud services are being used, and come to a mutual understanding of which cloud technologies are best for the business. Only through a clear understanding can IT leaders devise cloud strategies that benefit users—and ultimately drive business advancement. At the very least, IT leaders need to become informed brokers. Even better, they may want to establish their own cloud services and merchandize them to reduce costs and better meet user needs.

Ultimately, shadow IT can be a way to understand the needs of the business and inform a more comprehensive, smart cloud sourcing strategy. The first task is knowing what’s being used and why. Only then can LOB leaders develop plans and mitigate risks.

Consider three primary steps when accounting for shadow IT and developing a comprehensive strategy that includes public cloud technologies and in-hour IT:

1. Determine what users are already consuming in terms of cloud technologies. A comprehensive cloud services consumption assessment is often an eye-opener for IT executives who previously had no idea how many consumer clouds were in use throughout their enterprises. Understanding which cloud services are being used, where, and how can help you determine financial and security risks and point out opportunities to consolidate services, obtain better pricing, and minimize risks. Through awareness of usage, you have the power to broker bulk costs and terms with outsourced cloud providers.

2. Gauge business users’ needs to see where there might be gaps in enterprise IT solutions. Find out why people are using consumer cloud services to inform new IT strategies and solutions that fill the void.

3. Devise a plan to move forward and communicate it to your counterparts on your executive staff. Our DomainTen strategy service helps you create a comprehensive blueprint for technology platforms, processes, and organizational structures required for delivering the right IT solutions that are capable of competing with consumer-oriented cloud solutions. The aim is to entice users to return to your private enterprise cloud or on-premise solution to maximize control and minimize costs.

Never underestimate the power of convenience in terms of people adopting new technologies. From today onward, users will always want to use the technology that makes it easier for them to get their jobs done. Increasingly, that technology is what they use in their day-to-day lives.

But also, don’t forget to empower yourself. Evaluate cloud consumption and make a long-term plan to meet users’ business needs. Conduct a cloud assessment to improve interactions with your counterparts on executive staff and to inform your cloud sourcing strategy. Public cloud services have advantages, costs, and risks. The ultimate goal is to bring users back in-house as much as possible to maximize their productivity while giving enterprise IT more control. Comprehensive cloud assessments can help IT become more responsive to user needs while minimizing costs and risks—and that’s the ultimate goal.

To take the first step in developing your cloud strategy , watch Assessing Cloud Consumption.

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Jim Grubb

Chief Technology Evangelist

Cisco Customer Experience Center