Shadow IT: The New Departmental Market For Monitoring And Management

Shadow IT

The cloud is allowing business managers and users to acquire new technology capabilities directly, without going through their corporate IT departments. Some in the IT industry are unhappy about this trend—commonly referred to as ‘Shadow IT’—because it threatens to disrupt their traditional way of doing things. But others recognise it as a significant market opportunity for those who are agile and respond.

More specifically, the Shadow IT phenomenon is creating a whole new market for monitoring and management solutions. Departmental users that no longer want to depend exclusively on their corporate IT departments to acquire technology certainly don’t want to depend entirely on those same departments for monitoring and managing that technology, either.

A central question raised by the rise of Shadow IT is therefore this: How will departmental users monitor and manage technology as they seek a greater degree of independence from corporate IT—especially given their limited budgets and lack of technical expertise?

What Do Users Want?

The history of the relationship between IT and the business is one of continuous user empowerment. Back in the days of the mainframe, IT was in complete control of all software and hardware. Then, as distributed computing emerged, users began to get their own desktop productivity tools in the form of PC software.

This shift in empowerment continued as the web gave users the freedom to quickly find all kinds of information resources using browsers, search engines and hyperlinks. Most recently, the Internet has also become a source of full-blown applications that users can run without having to download any code onto their corporate-owned desktops at all—or that they can run on smartphones and tablets that they personally control.

This movement away from IT control and towards user empowerment is not likely to reverse itself. IT has its hands full running the data centre, keeping sensitive information assets secure and developing new strategic capabilities in areas such as Big Data and analytics. Given these burdens, and given the seemingly insatiable appetite of the business for new capabilities—users are going to bypass corporate IT departments in pursuit of their needs, if and when it makes sense to do so.

Simply put, history has taught us that the forces driving Shadow IT are stronger than those that would resist it. PCs, the Web and software-as-a-service (SaaS) were going to happen with or without the endorsement of corporate IT. The same holds true of this next generation of user empowerment.

Monitoring & Management

In addition to teaching us that business users are hungry for technology, history has also taught us that they don’t give sufficient thought about how to manage that technology over time. Users may have led the charge to PC and LANs, but corporate IT had to figure out how to keep them running. Users may have led adoption of the Web, but it was left to IT make corporate use of the web secure.

As business users become more dependent on technology, however, their tolerance for downtime and poor performance is decreasing. They also recognise that there is a fundamental contradiction between acquiring technology without IT’s involvement, and any expectation that IT will then help them manage that technology.

So, just as business departments once sought the ability to acquire their own capabilities for working with documents and data, they now recognise their need to acquire their own capabilities for monitoring applications and services.

The problem, of course, is that business users don’t know anything about SNMP traps, log files or any of the other highly technical underpinnings of conventional IT management. Nor do they have any desire to do so. This lack of technical expertise has, at least until now, stood between them and their desire for visibility into the technology services they depend on every day—and which, increasingly, they are acquiring independently of IT.

A Practical Solution

How can departmental users be properly empowered to monitor and manage essential applications and services, despite their lack of technical skills? The answer is being found in a new generation of solutions that meet three key criteria:

  • Easy, automated implementation: Departmental users have neither the time, skills, nor inclination to get bogged down in complex technology deployments. An effective departmental management-and-monitoring solution for Shadow IT must therefore install automatically and effortlessly.
  • End-to-end application and service insight: Departmental users aren’t interested in knowing about servers, storage devices and routers. They want to know what’s going on with the actual services they consume. To meet their needs, the right solution must therefore provide visibility into the health of end-to-end application delivery—rather than into technical data regarding the individual components supporting that delivery.
  • Low cost: Departmental users are not accustomed to laying out significant capital for technology. Nor are they going to allocate much in the way of OPEX for something that is neither central nor strategic to their business mission. So their acceptance of a monitoring solution will be highly price-sensitive.

At one time, a management-and-monitoring solution meeting these criteria would have been challenging. The sophisticated systems that corporate IT departments use to manage enterprise IT environments require a tremendous amount of configuration, focus on highly granular root-cause discovery and come with very high prices tags.

But new times call for new solutions. And advances in management technology are enabling vendors to deliver solutions that are a much better fit with the emerging Shadow IT market. By adopting these solutions, departmental users can continue the ongoing trend of empowerment and reduced dependence on corporate IT.

The result will be a win-win. For the business, the win will be even more effective use of technology. For corporate IT, the win will be the freedom to focus allocation of its limited resources on more strategic projects.

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Mark Rivington

Mark Rivington has deep knowledge of the systems and network management vendor space having served in numerous technical and marketing roles at key software organisations over the last twenty years. At Candle, Boole & Babbage, BMC and RiverSoft and Nimsoft, Mark gathered significant understanding of how management software can be developed and deployed to maximise customer returns in terms of business benefit. In his current role this understanding helps drive the direction of the Nimsoft technology within CA towards maximum customer benefit.