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Bringing IT out of the Shadows

A CIO’s job is never done.  Quite aside from optimising infrastructures, making sure everyone has the right technology to do their job, and designing smart, secure solutions to drive business growth, there is the constant challenge of employees who decide to head off into the shadows when it comes to IT.

The most high-profile example of this is the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement where employees began discreetly, then overtly using their own smartphones and tablets as workplace tools.  What began as a rebellion has now become mainstream, with most organisations finding a secure way to welcome employee’s tech into the business.  These businesses know that a worker using a device they love is going to be much more productive than one who’s told they can’t bring their iPhone to work.  And it’s about to happen all over again.

Here we go again

As personal devices proliferated rapidly throughout business, the same pattern is arising in SaaS solutions that are not approved by corporate IT.  Employees are increasingly using cloud-based services such as DropBox, iCloud, Google Apps, Office365 and LinkedIn to communicate and collaborate and they don’t see anything wrong with it, as a McAfee sponsored study by Frost and Sullivan discovered:

The next chapter

A recent IDC forecast  described what we’re now experiencing as “Chapter Two” of Cloud services which is user and solution driven.  This in turn links to the importance of strong BYOD policies as employees elect to use the device best suited to enabling them to work in a flexible, constantly connected way.  The report predicts that by 2017 60% of cloud services will be SaaS, and with Gartner predicting that 90% of technology will be procured outside of IT by 2020, it points to the fact that IT departments need to start preparing now because employees are racing to find ways to work smarter – and they’re doing it on their own devices and in their own time.

Where does this leave IT?

This could in fact be an incredible opportunity for IT departments to make huge leaps towards achieving the Agile state described in our infographic, but it does require careful planning and thorough consultation with the entire business.  IT should not block business users from procuring productivity tools – that will only backfire. And yet allowing it without control carries many risks; is corporate data being exposed?  What happens when the next app release doesn’t work on the corporate standard laptop, tablet or mobile phone build?  What about data backup and disaster recovery?  What happens about integration between different apps when it’s needed?

 Moving to SaaS offers cost savings – critical as budgets are cut; it can help provide a path away from maintaining costly legacy systems; and by provisioning services based on business requirements, IT can connect more closely with the broader business – overcoming each of the top 3 issues identified by CIO’s in our recent whitepapers.  That’s not to say it’s an easy journey - for the CIO it can feel uncomfortable as he or she is placed in the challenging position where it feels like a pause is required to rationalise, review and re-design legacy infrastructures, but the business is not able to stay still – particularly when users are already accessing non-approved apps and services.

Security Blanket

Knowing that data is already being shared makes security a #1 issue and this is where we think dialogue helps.  By consulting with users on what tools are actually being used (as opposed to what they should be using), CIO’s can begin to understand the true picture of the network including non-standard apps and services, and begin to create a plan on securing every data interaction.  With a proactive approach to employees, this positions IT as real enablers at user-level whilst providing insights that will benefit overall business strategy.

A new role for IT?

With such a shift in working practices and expectations, we think that this points towards big changes being required in the way IT roles are defined.  In many cases they will need to accelerate the normal development processes and accept a measured risk in order to meet the businesses expectations for agile response.

We see a future where IT is the ‘go-to’ partner when the business wants to create a service – for example helping marketing pull together a scalable, repeatable solution to combine and maximise social media campaigns by using Big Data insights.  Gartner calls these kinds of roles ‘Business Technology Optimisers’.

For the love of IT

For most CIO’s, and indeed any member of an IT organisation, the role they find themselves in today began with a very early love of technology that was self-directed and fuelled by discovery.  By reaching outside of the organisation to bring the most intuitive, useful, interesting and employee-centric technology to the fore, and leveraging SaaS to make the business truly agile, there’s a fantastic opportunity for CIO’s to go back to their roots, bring their passion out of the shadows and put IT at the heart of the business. 

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