IT departments must stop being a “Ministry of No” and face shadow IT

IT reluctance to embrace new ways of working is stifling collaboration in the workplace

shadowy hands over a keyboard

IT departments need to enable users to work using their own tools and embrace shadow IT rather than trying to stop it. 

That was one of the main talking points at a roundtable discussion in London this morning, hosted by IT Pro  in association with Arkadin.

On one hand, you have an organisation that asks people to be more innovative and collaborate and work in smarter ways. However, on the other hand, the tools that you may need to do that aren't available as the IT department - in trying to keep the organisation safe - is saying you can't use these tools.

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Earl Talbot, UC Engagement Lead EMEA at NTT Europe, said that the IT department acted as a "Ministry of No" and this was stopping people from working and collaborating effectively.

"IT departments are often seen as the Ministry of No. Either the IT department doesn't know about what's being used, or it does and can't do anything about it," he said.  

He pointed to research commissioned by his firm and carried out by Vanson Bourne that showed that 78% of business decision makers (BDMs) admit that employees in their department are using cloud services without knowledge of the IT department, while 77% of IT decision makers (ITDMs) are aware that is happening.

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"That's a real challenge. On one hand, you have an organisation that asks people to be more innovative and collaborate and work in smarter ways. However, on the other hand, the tools that you may need to do that aren't available as the IT department - in trying to keep the organisation safe - is saying you can't use these tools," he said.

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He said that main reason why people used applications that weren't authorised by the IT department is that they are easy to use. This also brings a lot of challenges to security when shadow IT is used within the organisation's infrastructure.

Paul Lomax, CTO at Dennis Publishing (IT Pro's parent company) said that the reason shadow IT exists is that tech departments have often gone too far in using security concerns as a reason not to do something. "Some of this is founded but some unfounded, and [this has] locked things down so much that people were forced to work around it."

He added that in a previous role at another company, that firm banned Facebook at work despite looking to build up its presence on social media.

"IT can sometimes focus on security and forget about what people need to do their jobs," he added. 

Steve Brooks, an analyst at Creative Intellect Consulting, told delegates at the round table discussion that shadow IT "shouldn't be seen as a challenge but as an opportunity". 

"It's about engaging with the business and better understanding its needs. They're the ones that know what their job is. If you engage with them and find out what they need, IT can help in finding better tools."

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