Turning shadow IT into an advantage

In my last blog post, I told you about Evolving the Service Desk, a new report that we’ve prepared jointly with the Service Desk Institute (SDI). I’d encourage you to download and read it if you haven’t done so yet.

This time, I’d like to talk about one of the main drivers for service desk evolution that’s identified in the report: shadow IT and “bring your own device” (BYOD). Hornbill knows that shadow IT is having a major impact on many of our customers – so much so that we’ll shortly be launching our own report dedicated to it.

As I argued previously, service desks (and IT functions as a whole) must evolve in order to continue meeting the changing expectations of their customers. Successful evolution will ultimately depend on the IT service desk’s ability to demonstrate that it creates value that the business can’t create for itself.

In the context of that need to create value, shadow IT presents a challenge, because, by definition, it’s about the business creating value for itself: acquiring or implementing IT systems or solutions without the approval, or even knowledge, of the IT function. This usually happens when users feel that IT doesn’t offer the right service, is too slow to provide it, or imposes too much red tape. (BYOD – which you can read about in our previous blog series – can be seen as a subset of shadow IT.)

With the advent of cloud and Software as a Service, plus the ubiquity of mobile devices, shadow IT has really taken off. As a result, many service desk managers feel as if they are losing control over the IT landscape, with potentially damaging consequences for security, among other concerns.

There’s no point in trying, Canute-like, to reverse the advancing tide of shadow IT. Instead, the service desk needs to evolve to a point where it can co-exist with shadow IT, and even turn it into an advantage.

As the SDI report discusses, it’s a question of getting closer to the user through improved communication, learning about the types of shadow IT that are happening, and working out a way to add value to the current scenario. You could, for example, consider enabling customers to request the products and services they are getting for themselves via the service desk instead, acting as a broker. You could also offer some level of support for the products and services that they have already acquired for themselves.

Regardless of the specific approach taken, the goal should be to become the trusted advisor that the business turns to first whenever it has an IT requirement. To shape up for this crucial role, the service desk needs to make the most of the resources available to it, especially its people and its knowledge – both of which are discussed in the SDI report. In the next blog post in this series, I’ll look at another issue: making the most of your organization’s knowledge.

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