I’m not really sure where I first heard the term Stealth IT, but it seems I’m starting to see and hear about it more and more when talking with customers and prospects. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a term they use, but more around a description of some of the problems they are running into. For instance, I see it a lot when speaking about End User Computing, but it can be tied to Application Development just as easy.
So, what is Stealth IT? It’s the combination of applications and end user devices like Dropbox and iPads that has started to eat away at IT departments relevancy within their own company as well as end users willingness to “go out on their own” to solve their issues. In other words, IT isn’t able to adapt as quick as their end users need them to so end users are simply going elsewhere for these services.
Now, this isn’t just an End User Computing issues, as you can imagine Application Developers and even Application Owners go through this same frustration. For instance, think of the company you work at today. How long would it take you, or your IT organization to react to an application owner request for server resources to test a new software build? Mentally walk through the process in your head:
- How many layers of requests does a typical end user need to go through to request IT resources keeping in mind your current “to do list”.
- How long do you realistically think it would take you to actually meet their requirements?
- What happens if you don’t have the servers, or storage requirements to meet their needs?
What we are starting to see is more and more developers doing their own thing and going out to Amazon, or other 3rd party providers and simply swiping their Amex card and having their environment ready to go in about an hour if not quicker. This is another solid example of Stealth IT and another great example of what IT departments will need to start focusing on if they want to continue to be relevant inside their own company.
So why should companies and specifically IT organization care about these types of Stealth IT issues? First and foremost, it becomes a HUGE security and legal risk. Lets take Dropbox as a good example. I’m sure your company “doesn’t support it” but my guess is your end users (or even you) still use it and that means corporate information is sitting in someone else cloud. Keeping in mind, this is completely out of reach from IT and just because IT doesn’t bless it, doesn’t mean they are still not responsible when a legal hold order rolls down, or worse: a discovery request happens. Lawyers are getting REALLY smart about all these various Stealth IT solutions in the market and CIO’s, CFO’s and even CEO’s can get themselves into a lot of hot water if they don’t get their hands around it ASAP. Same thing from an application developer perspective. Most AppDev guys like to play with real information, so that means they are uploading company information into someone else cloud. What happens if they leave? How does IT lock down their access? Better yet how does IT even know about it?
So, while Stealth IT might not be a big issue today in your environment (and I would certainly argue that it is a big issue) you can see the trend happening in your own company. While I agree some of this has a lot to do with current application limitations around flexibility, at some point IT has to look in the mirror and ask themselves if they are doing everything they can be doing to be as reactive as possible to their internal customers. If we don’t reflect from time to time, internal IT will start to loose more and more relevancy and that’s never a good thing !!
Out of curiosity, what other Stealth IT examples do you see out in the market today?
3 thoughts on “Stealth IT and why its important to understand its impact to your company”
One example I see, even within our own company is mobile phones. IT can be handled differently, but it’s easy enough to swap out a phone, or add an additional device to sync. What happens when I change employer, or if I make a backup of all mails of that device to a private laptop that I use to sync the device?
Especially younger generations of end users and IT consumers are not accepting “no” as an answer, and while you may try to enforce restrictions on them, or perhaps even threaten them with legal actions in case of a violation, it’s a fact that most users will just grab alternatives that allow them to do their work in the way they see as easiest or best fitting for themselves.
Only way I see aroun that, is by offering a better fitting solution or more flexibility in the way IT offers it’s services. It’s also how IT is changing in to the role of a service provider.
In this infographic i’ve made yesterday, http://wp.me/p2zMA9-1x based on a survey done in October with 131 IS practitioners, it gives you examples of Shadow IT (or stealth IT), and a good overview of Shadow IT phenomenon
The problem I have seen in a lot of places is that IT forget that we are a service orientated department. Too many IT guys are the type of people who, when someone asks for something, will come up with a page of reasons why they can’t have it. In the past, the user would have no choice but to do what IT tells them, even if it makes their job harder and ends up losing the company money. Nowadays there are ways around. Not that I agree with it, BUT it IS the IT departments own fault. A LOT of IT guys will sit there and completely forget that many No decisions from IT mean that the company will make less money. If a User wants to work from home and you say no, thats less money to pay YOUR wages. If a user wants a larger mailbox because they use it as a filing system and you force them to delete an important order document by mistake because “WE CANT INCREASE FOR ANY REASON”, you have cost the company money.
IT people have to realise that we are there to service the company, not run it. We have to work out how to provide secure stable services for the actual people who make money for the firm to work, not to sit there with a great big red sign saying no no no.