Shadow IT is really a call for help

Posted by Ron Miller on Mar 20, 2014 8:30:00 AM

8499223554_c1fc3b888f_b_(1)My teen son once told me that overly strict parents raise good liars. His point was if you make things too restrictive, teens will find a way to do it anyway and they'll lie to you instead.

I have the feeling that employees are a lot like that. If you make it too tough to get their work done by placing too many restrictions and roadblocks in their way, they're going to find a way to do it anyway.

And much like those teens, it's not so much defiance - although it may seem that way to parents - as simply wanting to live their lives. In the case of employees, it's simply trying to get their work done.

When you give employees what my friend Brian Katz calls a crapplication, they are going to look for something better. And they will probably find something better because there are so many good services out there now, and it's so easy to do.

IT doesn't hold all the power or control anymore. Today, anyone can download and provision software in a matter of seconds or minutes, much of it free or very inexpensive, and find a good tool that gets the job done. And getting the job done is really what it's all about here.

It's not about employees thumbing their noses at IT. It's simply about workers wanting a tool they don't have to fight to get their work done.

Earlier this week I interviewed Box CIO Ben Haines for an article on CITEworld. He told me they had a philosophy of saying yes to employees as much as they could. That way when they came across an application that really was a bad idea, they could have an honest conversation with the department or individual.

Those individuals would then take IT seriously because they weren't always hearing an automatic "no," as it is at so many companies.

Haines said that old school IT pros who try to maintain control are heading to extinction. Instead, IT - and MSPs for that matter - needs to build a partnership with your users and departments and get out of the mentality where you're trying to build a kingdom made of networks, software and maintenance contracts.

It's not easy for people who were brought up a certain way - in this case, racking and stacking and maintaining networks - to do an about-face and start thinking in terms of how you can help the business units achieve their goals.

You probably think that by trying to be secure and set up rules and regulations you have been helping the organization, and to a large extent you absolutely have. But as the world has changed, your role needs to change too, and you need to set up guidelines and boundaries - not be a drill sergeant who says no to everything.

Because if you do, chances are people will just stop listening. And when you have a legitimate and serious concern, it will fall on deaf ears.

If you look at shadow IT as a call for help to find tools that let people get their work done and look for ways to help them achieve that, you'll be on the road to helping a workforce instead of acting as a company's technology police.

Photo Credit: betsyweber on Flickr. Used under CC 2.0 license.

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