IT pros should pay attention to 'shadow IT,' Interop NY keynoters urge

'Shadow IT,' commonly called BYOD, has existed for a long time, one says

Interop New York speakers opened the conference with a provocative message: Instead of ignoring "shadow IT" in their organizations, IT pros should try to understand what they are failing to deliver that workers wind up taking care of themselves.

"Shadow IT is an opportunity to become closer to our business and to build a culture of collaboration," said Steve Comstock, who was recently appointed CIO for CBS Interactive, the online content division for the CBS television network.

Shadow IT, also often called bring-your-own-IT or BYOD, is the practice of employees procuring their own IT resources, without going through the appropriate organizational channels.

Shadow IT "was basically the scary monster under my infrastructure, the data going somewhere that we didn't know about. The software being deployed that wasn't being managed," Comstock said.

Although a recent issue in the trade press, BYOD has existed in the workplace for decades, Comstock said.

In the late 1990s, many branch offices installed their own file servers to keep local copies of paperwork, shared employee music and other official and unofficial material.

Such rogue file servers could become problematic for IT staff in that when they broke down, IT was often called in to fix them.

In the decade after that, many offices set up their own wireless networks, often without following proper security procedures, inducing another IT headache.

The newest form of shadow IT, which Comstock also called "dark IT," is cloud services. These are platform, software and infrastructure services that can be obtained by using a personal credit card.

Such services are popular because they allow employees to more quickly set up the services they need, without going through a probably already-overworked IT department.

Comstock urged the audience to embrace this new form of shadow IT, because it provides a glimpse to IT staff of what their users require.

"This doesn't bother me, because I see it as an opportunity to help transform us," Comstock said.

For years, IT executives have been insisting that they need to have a seat at the table when it comes to making business decisions for organizations, Comstock noted.

Too often, though, when an IT professional meets with a line-of-business manager, the jargon used by the manager doesn't mean anything to the IT pro, which can lead to a lack of understanding about the needs of the department in question.

However, when a business executive procures cloud services, IT pros should take close note of what services those are and what they provide that isn't offered in-house.

"Now I have a tool to translate the business process to understand what they need," Comstock said.

IT shops need to be more open to their users, Comstock said. "Many people outside see us as a culture of 'No,' a culture of fear. Let's change this culture," Comstock said.

The sentiment was echoed by John Jeremiah, who is the mobile life-cycle product marketing lead of Hewlett-Packard. Consumerization is the new driver of enterprise IT, Jeremiah said.

Employees "wonder why it takes weeks and months and years" for new software systems to be put in place, Jeremiah said. "The expectations are incredibly high. Users want it all now."

The typical IT response to this heightened demand is "to put up moats," Jeremiah said.

But part of the problem is IT. Too many enterprise applications are "built around the data" and "forget about people," Jeremiah said.

As part of the morning's keynotes, comedian Seth Meyers was brought in to add some levity and decried the pervasiveness of consumer technology.

"It is surprising to see how many people are choosing not to watch me but to just look at me through your phones," Meyers said.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is

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