Shadow IT

(Note: this is not an advertisement for product. I’m just a regular dude relating a product I use to the business environment.)

A few years ago, while my family and I were on summer vacation at the beach we noticed a few other families using a different kind of beach shade. It wasn’t like a traditional shade umbrella because it had a rectangular top. But it wasn’t like a canopy tent either because it wasn’t bulky and didn’t have four poles to create a base. I would say it more closely resembled a flag. The cloth, held up by the wind, cast a shadow under it to provide protection from the Sun. I used Google Lens to find what it was.

Shibumi.

I quickly read the story about the inspiration for the Shibumi. If you get a chance, look it up. It’s an inspirational and feel-good read about three guys dreaming of a better way to get some shade at the beach. The Shibumi isn’t heavy and bulky like a tent. It’s not susceptible to breaking in the wind or getting picked up and blown like an umbrella. One big idea in the story of the invention was the inventors thought about how to work with the wind, not against it.

Fast forward to this year. While I sat under my own Shibumi enjoying the shade and the sand between my toes, I searched my mind for a business example of working with the wind. It didn’t take long. Shadow IT has been a competing force for technology managers for decades. It’s when other departments in the business introduce technology platforms and workflows into a company without involving the IT department. It typically leads to creating more work for integration, configuration, and security. It always creates a bit of tension.

Why does this happen?

I’ll submit a few reasons shadow IT moves into an organization:

  • When IT is too busy to help.
  • When IT approaches business discussions with the attitude of being ‘right’.
  • When IT wants to dictate rather than partner.

The list goes on but shares a common thread. It’s when IT tries to work against the other business departments more than working with them. (Insert mental picture of a beach umbrella getting flattened by a strong wind.)

I love the concept of the Shibumi; Work with the wind not against it. That’s really the secret of minimizing shadow IT in an organization. Be approachable. Listen to the problem before proposing solutions. Elevate the needs of the business over technology. Find common ground.

Here’s the great thing. Just like that Shibumi is lighter weight, quicker to setup, and more reliable than a traditional beach shade, avoiding shadow IT offers the same advantages. It’s easier to setup technology when the business departments work with you. Technology is more likely to be used with cross-departmental support. The useful life of technology platforms will be longer when it provides purpose to more than a single department. Data sprawl will be minimized.

If you’re having trouble with Shadow IT in your organization, go make a new shadow. Work with the wind.

Onward and upward.