How to Align Business and Technology in the Age of Shadow IT

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Digital transformations are happening at companies everywhere, but who’s leading the charge? At first glance, it would seem like the digitization of business should be an IT-driven initiative, but that’s not what’s happening. Research from the Everest Group reveals a large amount of business technology investments are being made off the CIO’s radar — in the “shadows,” one might say. So much so that a term exists to describe such peripheral IT decision making: shadow IT.

What’s Pushing Shadow IT

Shadow IT is real, it’s growing and it’s — potentially — dangerous. The momentous rise of shadow IT wouldn’t be so alarming if it weren’t for statistics like this one from Gartner: By 2020, one-third of successful cyberattacks will be on shadow IT resources. Yet the proliferation continues — ServerCentral even predicts shadow IT will make up 90% of IT investments within the next 10 years. This begs the question of why.

The pace of technology change plays a major role in shadow IT’s rise. Technology advances by the second, which means its ability to impact business does as well. As the decision makers at the top of the IT food chain, CIOs and CTOs are in the thankless position of having to keep pace with fast-evolving digital trends or face the chopping block.

Business and technology writer Minda Zetlin explores this topic in a recent article on, even offering a few tips on how IT leaders can start to wrangle shadow IT and better align their efforts with business strategies.

Three Ways IT Can Reposition Itself to Drive Business

1.      Balance Maintenance with Innovation

Shockingly, the old stereotype of IT being the folks who just “keep the lights on” is still widely prevalent in the C-suite, which leads to distrust in a CIO’s ability to understand customers and meet business demands. According to Gartner’s CIO Agenda, only 23% of IT execs are trusted by their CEO cohorts. The solution? CIOs must find a way to balance maintaining existing systems with driving innovation. In some instances, Zetlin suggests, this might even mean creating a new role called the CDO — chief digital officer.

2.      Being a Technology Collaborator Without Dropping Ownership

An unfortunate but inevitable fact about shadow IT trends is that no matter whose idea it was to launch a technology initiative or evolve a process, IT will get the blame when it goes wrong. To combat this, technology decision makers must walk the fine line of being able to collaborate with other leaders of different business units while maintaining a firm grip over the direction of technology investments.

3.      Committing to Organizational Success

Historically, the spectrum of IT’s service delivery started and ended within the walls of their organization — keeping networks running, troubleshooting bugs, installing new tools, etc. But modern business demands have blown the doors off this antiquated range of service. Today, for IT to commit to the success of their organization, they must also commit to the success of external customers and the larger growth of the business. On a small scale, this can be accomplished by simply sitting in on sales calls to understand a customer’s pain points. On a larger scale, this might involve repositioning costs like IT chargebacks to illustrate how much the organization is expanding and hiring.

To read more business-driving tips for IT decision makers, check out Zetlin’s full article.

In the Midst of Digital Transformation?

Whether shadow IT plays a major role at your organization or you’re looking to head off its influence down the road, it never hurts to be proactive. One of the best ways to accomplish that as a business leader is by getting the lowdown on what’s happening in the industry around you. That’s why, at Select, we strive to keep you informed about what technology and collaboration opportunities may be at your fingertips.

Here’s a short overview of the year’s disrupting technologies — it might help jar a few ideas to bring up at your next executive meeting.

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