Make the Best of Shadow IT

Four quick wins to help IT become a trusted consultant, not an overbearing tyrant.

One thing has become clear in the past few years, shadow IT is here to stay. As digital business evolves, the IT department will make fewer technology decisions, and individual business units will begin selecting technology for their teams. In fact, Gartner predicts that through 2017, 38% of technology purchases will be managed, defined and controlled by business leaders.

The challenge occurs when a business unit requests support to integrate a selected technology into a back-end system. For the business unit, it is a minor request for information, but for IT it could mean days or weeks of unscheduled work.

Create and increase the perception that IT is a trusted adviser that can be consulted on technical decisions

“In the new digital economy, the reality is that most organizations will support technology devices, software and services outside the ownership or control of IT organizations,” said Donna Fitzgerald, research vice president. “The only solution to this problem is to improve the ongoing collaboration and communication between IT and the business so that the possibility of a surprise is minimized.”

While the communication process with other business units will be ongoing, there are four steps the IT department should take to begin the process.

Develop a deep network of business contacts.

Although the IT project manager (PM) might know everyone in the IT department, she might not be familiar with the people who work in other business units. It’s important to spend at least 20% to 50% of total work time engaging with the extended stakeholder community. IT might not learn what’s going on in other business units until it’s too late to be involved or there is a problem. By networking with other groups, the IT Project Management Office (PMO) will gain a broader understanding of what each department’s projects. Not only will that allow for more communication, it will improve stakeholder satisfaction with the outcomes.

Offer generalized help to business-led projects where possible.

Establishing relationships in each department means that if you learn about a shadow IT project, you can follow up on it immediately. The goal should not be to take over or offer to manage the project, but rather to offer a second opinion should the PM need one. It’s important to create and increase the perception that IT is a trusted adviser that can be consulted on technical decisions.

Read More: Evolve the IT Organization

Offer to help bridge integration issues early between IT and the business.

An important part of avoiding issues early will be to create trust between the IT PM and the other business units. The goal is to become a trusted team player. This is particularly important when IT will be needed to support a particular component of a project. Although many projects are pure-play SaaS, anything requiring IT should ideally be formally added to the IT portfolio or at least be on IT’s radar to avoid unsupported data feeds or technology issues. Ensure that business units are able to connect with the correct IT resource.

Create an open community of practice for all PMs so that you have some influence.

The IT PM will benefit greatly from an open and dynamic community of PMs. It doesn’t necessarily matter what business unit the PM is in — he or she is still a PM. By creating a PM community, the IT PM will be able to establish relationships with other PMs across the company. PMs who are brought in as contractors or new to the company will also find this to be a great way to assimilate into the company.

For example, at one company, a PM holds weekly meetings to help contractors figure out who to contact for help and what resources are available to them. The goal is not to come across with a message of “You must comply,” but rather to instill a “This is what has worked well for us” approach. This plays to people’s natural desire to get along and “fit in” at a new company.

By focusing on these four quick wins, IT will be equipped to deal with more nuanced situations arising from shadow IT in the future.

Get Smarter

Client Research
To learn more techniques for dealing with shadow IT, clients can read the full report How the PMO Can Make the Best of Shadow IT.

Gartner Program & Portfolio Management Summits 2017
Gartner analysts will provide additional analysis and information on PPM trends at the Gartner Program & Portfolio Management Summits 2017 taking place June 5-7 in Orlando, Florida and June 12-13 in London. You can follow news and updates from the events on Twitter using #GartnerPPM

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