Embracing shadow IT through multi-cloud

Instead of fearing and fighting shadow IT, embrace the opportunity it offers

Shadow IT is often thought of as the IT underbelly. The problem child of business technology, it doesn’t play by the rules and is often out of control. Loosely defined, shadow IT is any form of technology that has been implemented into the business by an individual or a team, without the knowledge or approval of the organisation and IT management team.

Removing the stealth from stealth IT

It is not a new concept, IT departments have been managing shadow (or stealth) IT for many years since ‘bring your own device’ policies gained popularity in the workplace. These days it’s less about the individual user bringing a laptop from home – entire business departments are taking their technology needs into their own hands. Smart IT teams are the ones who are recognising this as innovation, and working to embrace the unique needs of each department.

According to Gartner “38 per cent of technology purchases will be managed, defined and controlled by business leaders” this year, and a targeted recent survey of C-level executives by Accenture has found that “more than 70 percent of respondents said that they do not involve internal IT until after the ‘as-a’ service option has already been selected.” Shadow IT is real, and leaders across the business are controlling more purchasing decisions. How then should it be managed when this trend is set to grow? 

It’s not you, it’s me

The IT department needs to change its approach. Rather than controlling purchasing, the IT manager must aim to take on the role of advisor. Take cloud for example - the majority (79 per cent) of workloads are operating in the cloud, according to a recent Rightscale State of the Cloud report. Embracing a cloud strategy that is designed to incorporate the individual needs of each business unit will have far more success, and costs less to run, than trying to manage a one-size-fits-all approach.

For instance, the finance team may be running a workload that requires large pools of storage and networking resources on a private cloud, such as OpenStack. At the same time, marketing may have a workload that needs to scale up or down quickly on a public cloud, such as Microsoft Azure or AWS. Each workload is running on the ideal cloud for their team, but now you have multiple clouds to manage.

Opening up to possibilities

A multi-cloud approach is one that includes the use of clouds from multiple vendors such as OpenStack, VMware, Microsoft  or AWS, and may even include your own private cloud. It is driven by the unique needs of the business, ensuring you are running each workload in the best performing cloud for its operation, reducing costs and migration of legacy applications, increasing diversity and improving results, and it is becoming more commonplace. In fact, the Rightscale report also found that 85 per cent of businesses are looking to adopt a multiple cloud strategy.

Key considerations for multi-cloud management include compliance, privacy, and security. When it comes to bringing shadow IT into the light, this can become complicated, but it’s not unmanageable. The first steps are to work closely with business heads to better understand their unique compliance and security needs, identify the vendor solution that meets these, and develop a management strategy to incorporate into the cloud strategy, ensuring you are using your resources wisely.

A multi-cloud managed service provider, for example, can act as an extension of the IT team, and fill in any gaps in expertise and resourcing. From a security perspective, it means round the clock proactive monitoring, advanced staff expertise, and behavioural analytics tools to detect and act on any security threats immediately. While you might think that the more environments that need managing, the greater risk of a security threat, a well-managed multi-cloud environment can, in fact, improve cloud security and compliance.

Instead of fearing and fighting shadow IT, embrace the opportunity it offers. You never know the innovation and efficiency it might bring your business.

Angus Dorney is senior director and general manager at Rackspace ANZ.

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