"Shadow IT" is a needlessly ominous term, but all the same it denotes an important trend. Intra-organizational departments are often still not on the same page when it comes to IT infrastructure automation, causing growing amounts of money to be channeled toward projects that are outside the influence of IT.
To get a sense of the problem, consider that one-quarter of all IT spending now happens outside of the official budget, according to a study conducted earlier this year by CEB. How did we get to this point? Start with the long provisioning times in IT, which can take anywhere from one week to one month. IT teams are in danger of losing out on important resources unless they can become more agile via DevOps-friendly infrastructure orchestration and automation.
How shadow IT holds back automation
By now, the benefits of automation are not lost on pretty much no one. Ninety-eight percent of respondents to a recent survey by PMG affirmed that automation was an essential driver of business. Automation was seen helping everything from customer service initiatives to big data analytics, with upside across the organization.
But shadow IT can ironically be a considerable impediment to capitalizing on automation's promise. A separate PMG report found that fractured processes, heavy workloads and struggles adapting to big data analytics and cloud computing were standing in the way of agility:
- Nearly half of the study's more than 300 subjects reported that business personnel were creating their own automation workflows without IT's approvals, using nonstandard tools.
- Seventy-eight percent of IT executives stated that their departments had too much on their plates to focus on activities that would actually create long-term value.
- Similarly, 16 percent of respondents confirmed that IT personnel had become primarily "order-takers" who couldn't devote enough time to pushing strategy forward.
- Two-thirds of individuals said that big data presented significant problems. The corresponding figures for mobile development and cloud computing were 74 percent and 58 percent, respectively.
"[S]hadow IT is also an issue for businesses looking to automate, with IT leaders saying that business departments deploy automation solutions without IT's knowledge," explained PMG principal Joe LeCompte, according to CIO Insight. "This is an issue IT needs to take the lead on curbing."
The results paint a troubling picture, but this is hardly a problem without a solution. Automation must be informed by DevOps in order to create a collaborative culture that breaks down the silos between various departments. All infrastructure must be accounted for and addressed through automation tools that can handle legacy, physical, virtual and cloud assets.
The takeaway:Automation is essential to doing business these days, since it enables the agility that organizations need in order to keep up with the competition. Shadow IT, though, is an obstacle to effective automation. It divides resources and efforts, diverts from strategic initiatives and drains budget from IT at a time when IT has more on its plate than ever before. DevOps automation tools will be important in overcoming the cultural and technical barriers to agility.