The Shadow IT Department (and Shadow HR)

[fr] Un article qui montre du doigt un nécessaire changement de mentalité dans les départements IT: nombre des outils que les employés utilisent pour améliorer leur productivité ont en fait été introduits de façon "sauvage". Vouloir tout contrôler à tout prix n'est pas la meilleure solution.

Here’s a very interesting piece I picked up in Bruno’s links: Users Who Know Too Much (And the CIOs Who Fear Them). It talks about the chasm between what technology IT departments make available, and what tools employees install and use behind the IT department’s back to be more productive at work.

And that disconnect is fundamental. Users want IT to be responsive to their individual needs and to make them more productive. CIOs want IT to be reliable, secure, scalable and compliant with an ever increasing number of government regulations. Consequently, when corporate IT designs and provides an IT system, manageability usually comes first, the user’s experience second. But the shadow IT department doesn’t give a hoot about manageability and provides its users with ways to end-run corporate IT when the interests of the two groups do not coincide.

“Employees are looking to enhance their efficiency,” says André Gold, director of information security at Continental Airlines. “People are saying, ‘I need this to do my job.’” But for all the reasons listed above, he says, corporate IT usually ends up saying no to what they want or, at best, promising to get to it…eventually. In the interim, users turn to the shadow IT department.

I remember that when I used to work at Orange, many of my most useful tools were things I “wasn’t allowed” to have on my computer. I also remember that when I got really bad RSI and using dictation software was the only way to get me back to work, the IT department flat-out refused our request for Dragon. (Somebody actually said that if I couldn’t type anymore, they should just get rid of me.) My boss had to have a chat with somebody else’s boss to finally have the program installed on my computer.

The bit that actually prompted me to write this post is the comparison with the way HR organises the company:

For example, a similar dynamic has long played out in HR. A company’s employees have titles and reporting relationships that give their work a formal structure. But at the same time every company has an informal structure determined by expertise, interpersonal relationships, work ethic, overall effectiveness and so on. Companies suffer when HR is out of phase with the informal structure. Employees are demoralized when the formal architecture elevates someone at the bottom of the informal architecture, and people who occupy the top spots in the informal architecture leave when they aren’t recognized by the formal one. Good HR departments know where employees stand in both the formal and informal architectures and balance the two.

A few months ago, I was giving a talk on blogs (etc.) to a bunch of Internal Communications people, and one of my points was that there is an informal structure inside the company (the value of which is in fact recognized by the companies, who will invest in “teambuilding” or “recreation” activities to encourage transversal communication), and that use of tools like blogs can help make this structure more visible and efficient. (Think Cluetrain, these 50.)

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This entry was posted in Social Media and the Web and tagged applications, cio, Citations, company, corporate, employees, hierarchy, hr, informal, installation, Internet / Computers, it, networks, Offsite, policy, productivity, programs, Social Software, software. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Shadow IT Department (and Shadow HR)

  1. justgraham says:

    I read this last week and the weekend has passed by. Returning this morning I see that I’m the only one to comment yet. I really must come to a Bloggy Friday soon. Your articles merit to be debated rather than commented upon sometines and this is one! Working in the Geneva Government I am all too aware of parallel structures. IT of course is a good example but I hadn’t realized (or hadn’t thought about it which is more likely) about parallel HR structures. Interesting! Thanks!

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