How cloud doesn’t have to mean shadow IT takes hold

Picture credit: PennyLamKK/Flickr

Inspired by the approach of independent developers, marketers want to be able to get their apps and other online properties, such as campaign microsites or new web products, live as quickly as possible. The same applies to other disciplines such as HR, logistics or sales. These business users bypass the IT department altogether and ­– armed with a credit card – go straight to the developers, buy some cloud instances, and away they go.

This has become known as shadow IT, where IT applications, devices and systems are purchased and used within the organisation, without the IT department’s knowledge or approval.

These buyers might think that shadow IT is a good thing. It means they can do it themselves and get around bothersome procurement channels. Cloud computing provides a cost-effective channel for those who want to get something up, prove the concept, grow it as demand increases or take it down if it doesn’t work.

The issue is that this provides a number of risks to the enterprise, in the form of data security, privacy, systems reliability and disaster recovery, to name but a few. The Heartbleed Open SSL bug is an example of how a security flaw can impact organisations and is a reminder of the importance of having an IT ecosystem that is managed properly in the open and not in the shadows.

The prevalence of cloud doesn’t have to mean that shadow IT takes hold: IT and various business departments, such as marketing, can work together effectively.

IT and various business departments can work together effectively to innovative and empower users

IT needs to think of itself as an enabler, not a barrier to innovation. It’s critical that there is a risk management capability in place to ensure that IT is compliant with the required policies, but there also needs to be an acceptance that users want to move quickly and innovate without feeling held back.

While cloud arguably gives departments too much rope, this doesn’t have to be the case. There are three aspects to cloud that IT can embrace for their own benefit to take cloud out of the shadows.

1.  Agility fosters collaboration

Cloud inherently has appeal to marketers and other business users because they can scale up and down according to demand. But this agility can be interpreted as a threat to IT, which wants to maintain a degree of control. Again, it doesn’t’ have to be like this. We’re big advocates of DevOps, which encourages and agile IT approach and fosters collaboration between different disciplines. It’s not just a question of having the right tools or systems in place, but the right culture.

2.  Governance doesn’t evaporate into the cloud

IT, quite rightly, wants to ensure that risk in minimised with any IT roll-out Ensuring that customer data is kept securely and is stored according to the home country’s data laws is just one example of an area of concern. For example, when Marketing shops for cloud instances for its new advertising campaign app on the open market, chances are things like customer data compliance go out of the window.

Does cloud give IT departments too much rope? It doesn’t have to be the case

We need to accept that this is the way the business wants to work and provide the tools for them to do it. IT can offer its own cloud store environment that takes compliance issues such as data protection, DR and security into account. Again, this positions IT as the trusted advisor.

3.  IT can help avoid the ‘hidden costs of cloud’

Headline prices aren’t the full story – there are often hidden costs in the fine print.  For example, it takes a trained eye to spot the implications for moving data around in the cloud. Ingress of data might be free, but extracting it can be costly. Similarly, ramp-up costs can add up, especially when seemingly minor decisions upfront turn into unnecessary ongoing expense. Selecting the wrong storage model or the wrong server price level, for example, can affect operational budgets long term.

Casting a light on the shadows

IT leaders have the expertise to act as the broker to provide users across the business –marketing, HR, finance and operations and others – with the ability to develop the applications they want, but in a secure and cost effective way. Cloud technology can provide the platform, IT leaders have the experience – I think that’s a powerful combination.