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Out of the Shadow – Enlightened IT By @NetEnrich | @CloudExpo [#Cloud]

Cloud & shadow IT allow business to grab the keys to the technology kingdom, & once in hand, innovation & productivity increase

Infrastructure and Operations Management may seem like just so many blinking lights in the back room, as parallel shadow projects are launched by department heads who can't wait on IT. Today, these shadow projects are more prevalent than ever as more non-tech managers look for easy access to tech functionality. There can be serious unintended consequences both for IT and for the business as a whole.

Cloud computing and easy-to-deploy software, available at lower price points, decentralize technology, which gives business managers a peek behind IT's silicon curtain. What was once a virtual and mysterious priesthood of little-understood tools and unintelligible code becomes a do-it-yourself model that deploys services at the click of a mouse, at less cost, with deliverables that everyone understands.

During this shadow innovation, corporate walls fall down. No longer at the mercy of IT, department heads now see the power of technology - and are no longer dependent on getting their projects past the IT waiting list of six months or more, and into the hands of a computer wonk who does not understand the business case of what they were coding. Cloud and shadow IT allow the business to grab the keys to the technology kingdom, and once in hand, innovation and productivity increase. These keys help business address globalization, consumerization, and new business models that turn everything upside down with a new wave of disruptive forces and a focus on growing market share rather than short-term profits.

Amidst this innovation, there are unintended circumstances. "Shadow IT" decentralizes operations. With new services coming out of departmental instead of the central IT budgets, organizations begin to operate their own technology fiefdoms, leaving IT out of the loop. While this allows for faster deployment, there is no unified view of infrastructure performance, security, and business outcomes.

The Veil Lifted
Once the mystery of IT had been revealed to non-tech department heads by way of the shadow IT and the cloud, the older model of strict control, long queues for service, and IT deliverables that didn't reflect business needs has to come to an end - and there is no going back.

However, once the veil is lifted, we do not get clarity. IT needs to make sure infrastructure, whether it be traditional or agile (cloud, DevOps, shadow services), delivers their part for business and security reasons. Yet with IT all we get is blinking lights. Dozens or perhaps hundreds of cloud infrastructure services and new apps mean even more things to keep tabs on. Even if everything does go through IT, the sheer numbers result in a confusing array of management interfaces, and IT takes on an even more reactive role. Simply keeping up with the alarms, reports, maintenance and day-to-day tasks eat up the time of highly paid engineers. Their skills could be used to better integrate and manage technology including shadow IT and the cloud, and help drive even better outcomes.

The unintended consequences are not good. Business use of technology - without IT involvement - will come back to bite all parties as the lack of oversight leads to extraordinary security problems, poor release quality, a reactive rather than proactive IT environment, and loss of market share to competitors who get it right. As a result, IT is losing its relevance. A major analyst firm predicts over 50 percent of IT organizations will become outdated and lose major budget by 2017 as more projects shift out of IT and into the hands of departmental heads.

IT needs to move past a reactive "Keep the Lights On" mode and find a way to allocate time, budget and resources to innovation. IT needs to shrink the shadow, and better manage what's left, while cementing closer ties between IT, cloud, the shadow, DevOps-like functions, and accelerated business outcomes.

The Cloud on the Silver Lining
The impact of SaaS, IaaS and PaaS services cannot be underestimated, and this groundbreaking innovation forever changes the way we do business, but forging ahead also brings risks and caveats. Yes, the head of marketing can deploy her own servers and applications, and the ease with which these can be deployed sometimes makes these services an "impulse buy" much like the candy bars and snacks at the supermarket checkout. You see it, you want it - and you grab it every time without thinking of the consequences, and before too long, you start to put on weight. You leave the grocery store feeling bloated every time - and walk slower perhaps. In the IT world, there is a very real risk of a bloated technology environment that can result in loss of control, redundant work, excessive costs, security risks and even lost business opportunities.

Most cloud services operate out of a highly secure data center, purely out of market necessity, although department heads may not think to pay attention to SLAs and security details when setting up a ten-dollar-a-month virtual server. However these dollars add up, especially with no one watching how many VMs are never closed - and there are hidden costs beyond the subscription price. There may be only a one-in-a-million chance of something going haywire, but it's the CIO's job to think about those chances before deploying an as-a-service offering. If for no other reason, shadow IT, as-a-service offerings, and even DevOps-driven releases should be vetted by the IT department for security - and quality - before deployment.

In addition to the security (or lack thereof) of these offerings being deployed by rogue department heads, security threats in general often occupy far too much day-to-day time, even within the IT department. In addition, when security threats are coming in from applications and services that IT does not control, minor security problems could become major ones.

A Hybrid Model - Enlightened Unification
The benefits of the decentralized model came at the cost of unified management and command. The time savings won through easy deployment are lost when duplication of efforts become the rule of the day. With each department running their own systems and databases, the concept of "corporate knowledge" takes a backseat to knowledge that is kept under lock and key by each department. The virtual priesthood was still with us, only instead of being at the IT level, it is at the departmental level.

Returning to the old days of centralized IT would be a tragic step backwards, and would eliminate the big steps forward in innovation that the cloud and simplified SaaS, Iaas and PaaS tools gave us. But the extreme level of decentralization has brought a new layer of problems and risks.

The solution lies in a new model of enlightened unification. The next generation of IT operations and infrastructure management combines cloud, shadow IT and departmental control, with a unified "single-pane" view and automation. In addition, functional sourcing improves management of the entire "system", shifts IT talent to strategic work, and forms a closer connection between IT and business processes for better innovation.

IT needs to step up to this opportunity with a fundamental change in how it operates. This change needs to bring "Traditional IT" up to 2015 standards and at the same time enable IT to support "Fast IT" with speed and stability.

Best Practices to "Shrink the Shadow" and Get the Most Business from the Cloud:

  1. A centralized "single pane" view of all infrastructure and technology still gives departmental control and discretion, eliminates redundancies, promotes data sharing and maintenance of corporate knowledge, and creates a unified executive view of the entire operation.
  2. Executive buy-in and CIO mandates to set the tone for departmental usage and deployment
  3. A holistic approach to infrastructure management takes advantage of virtualized infrastructure and cloud services, while integrating diverse toolsets and platforms to a central portal.
  4. A functional sourcing model to drive a fundamental shift of IT resources from reactive work to work that helps "Traditional IT" address business requirements, align with "Fast IT" and help drive incremental revenue
  5. Management through automation. Centralization does not need to be cumbersome. Rather than having highly paid IT personnel sitting in a room and watching blinking lights all day, intelligent filtering and automation reduces noise, allowing IT to devote energies to what really matters.

More Stories By Raju Chekuri

Raju Chekuri is CEO and founder of NetEnrich, a pure-play, next-gen IT infrastructure management and operations services provider for the enterprise. With 25 years of industry experience, he has brought a new perspective to managed services. Hiss career has evolved with the increased complexity IT teams face as they recognize the need to move towards IT-as-a-Service to drive innovation.

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