The narrative around shadow IT has been all about ways to curb it — detect the services users are purchasing and provide an IT-sanctioned alternative. Shadow IT refers to the increasing trend of independent users or departments buying, using, and administrating their own IT services, usually because going through IT takes too long or is otherwise inconvenient.
But what if we’re missing the point? Shadow IT doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. It’s revealing what could be common, accepted practice in the near future; the new IT buyer isn’t necessarily someone with technical experience.
According to Gartner, up to 30% of total IT spending will happen outside the allotted IT budget within the next few years. Meanwhile, over 50% of employees expect to be involved in purchasing technology today.
If you’re a service provider or MSP, you need to have these new consumers of IT in mind when approaching the market. That might less technical marketing or sales – but you still need to demonstrate your technical acumen.
The key is understanding the business goals behind an IT purchase, including specific industry drivers and how each user will interact with your solution. You may want to offer more turnkey and user-friendly options rather than pure IaaS, like Office 365, SharePoint, or plug-and-play file sharing platforms.
Every department is going to be looking for their own solutions. For SaaS providers, that often means focusing on verticalized applications around specific industries, job roles, or tasks.
How do you approach a Chief Financial Officer about the cloud? What about Human Resources? Or Marketing, which is often a savvy, frequent consumer of on-demand IT resources?
Shadow IT can also help the IT department identify business-focused IT applications that are filling a niche. Monitoring tools can reveal the apps being used and how much data and network traffic they’re consuming.
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As your IT environment has changed and evolved, chances are it has sprawled out, too. If this web is too difficult to navigate or too constraining, users will turn towards public systems that are better aligned to what they need to accomplish. Scalability, agility, pricing based on consumption, instant resource provisioning based on need rather than hardware refreshes — these are a lot of buzzwords, but they’re also legitimate reasons users are turning to shadow solutions.
Traditional IT still has its place, though: specifics like obsolete hardware, localization, solutions that reach across the entire organization (rather than specific departments or individuals), and integration with legacy platforms.
Be proactive. Talk to different departments about what they need from their technology.
A first step is working with shadow IT consumers — read more about how to identify shadow IT and work with users to deliver a solution — and then realize the benefits revealed by those shadow applications.