How do you see shadow IT: a growing problem or a growing opportunity? By now, the concept is familiar to pretty much everyone, so much so that 'shadow' no longer seems an appropriate term. In a recent Forbes blog, Russ Banham of CenturyLink argued that shadow IT should be rebranded as 'dispersed IT' because "everyone has a piece of it".
However, the scale of shadow IT is still enough to take some of us by surprise, especially when we consider that unauthorised apps and services are starting to consume a growing portion of company budgets. In a recent survey published by Atos and its cloud business Canopy, 60% of CIOs at large businesses said shadow IT spend amounted to an estimated €13 million (£9.4 million) in their organisation last year.
It's clear that for many organisations, shadow IT does not mean a handful of employees deciding to cut corners by using cloud services or a free app instead of officially sanctioned tools. In reality, departments are investing significant sums in unauthorised technology and still choosing to circumvent their IT department entirely.
The ongoing debate about shadow IT contains some interesting viewpoints, but two things in particular provided the impetus for this blog post. The first was another finding from the Canopy survey: at 36% of the total, file sharing software is the biggest single cause of shadow IT expenditure. The second thing was this CIO 100 Q&A with Eurostar's Antoine de Kerviler - in particular, the question: "Are you empowered by your organisation to disrupt from the inside?"
Out of the shadows
It seems the ability to disrupt from the inside is something that will become increasingly vital to organisations. When it does not come naturally, it will have to be learned. Both large enterprises and public sector organisations have much to gain from becoming more agile, but in many cases reaching that point will requires removal and destruction of ingrained habits, structures and technologies. This process does not have to take place in the shadows, it can - and should - be carried out in full view, by those at the very top.
As it happens, De Kerviler has some experience of disruptive measures. He recently oversaw Eurostar's migration of all file sharing to the cloud. The rail operator is now using the Box platform to house all of its shared drives and content. "From a technical point of view this means no more backups, one system to manage and replacing all shadow cloud sharing," he told CIO UK. De Kerviler added that from a business perspective, the move "facilitates collaboration and sharing, access from anywhere with any device, including BYOD, provides a single version of the truth and enables search in all enterprise content".
Beyond business file sharing
The Eurostar CIO's willingness to accept his role as a disruptor is refreshing - and will hopefully inspire other organisations at an earlier stage of their own transformative journey. The really interesting thing, however, is his acknowledgement of secure file sharing as more than a means to an end. For De Kerviler, moving files into the cloud provides a foundation on which to build in terms of collaboration, mobility and efficiency.
So in the next year or two, we expect to see a growing number of businesses rush to replace shadow IT applications with secure file sharing software in the cloud. However, the organisations that really succeed will be those that truly disrupt from the inside by placing the cloud at the centre of a strategy for transformation and agility.