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The dark side of IT

If you’re striving for interconnectedness and digitisation, you require transparency in your system landscape, sophisticated multi-cloud and software asset management, as well as data integration which is standardised and easy to operate.

By now, most companies understand that digitisation is a crucial factor in optimising processes and developing new value creation models. Managing directors can therefore classify the development of new digital concepts as critical to remaining competitive. One possible consequence is that employees in leadership roles across virtually all departments within the company will be tasked with developing digitisation solutions. And many of them will take the initiative into their own hands.

In order to produce results quickly, people rely on online services and apps whereby the software is stored in the cloud and doesn’t need to be integrated in the company’s IT systems. In the simplest case, this begins with the usage of external storage such as Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, OneDrive or MagentaCloud. This is followed by platform solutions through which partners provide access to numerous useful tools. These providers include, for example, IBM Cloud (formerly IBM Bluemix), Salesforce or AWS Beanstalk. And, of course, this also concerns the wide range of software as a service which has now become available for virtually all business industries, from production and materials management to accounting, human resources, sales and marketing/PR.

What’s the benefit? Departments can use these isolated solutions to quickly achieve initial digitisation results. Furthermore, IT support is rarely necessary thanks to the generally simple integration and usage of such services. This means you can avoid tests, activation procedures and long waiting times.

Integration into IT service management

However, these shadow applications are posing an increasingly serious problem for corporate IT, as well as for the competitiveness of the company. This is because the IT department loses their overview and control of the IT landscape but remains responsible for functional efficiency.

In addition, the usage of IT systems without technical and strategic integration into the IT service management gives rise to numerous problems relating to data security, IT system security and, in particular, data accessibility across the company. Instead of the integration of business structures, there are autonomous islands which use different services, systems and software solutions in parallel. Employees are thus unable to make their results available to other areas within the company. Data and tools are therefore only available to individual employee groups or departments, and a higher-level business integration is practically impossible.

The disadvantage: Well-meant shadow IT prevents business integration on a company-wide level and thus the continuous strategic positioning of the company with regard to digitisation.

What can be done?

Firstly, the IT department must be clearly responsible for all IT applications which are used in and around the business, with the support of the managing directors. Clear and repeated communication from IT to the other departments is vital here.

The company also requires a multi-cloud strategy to avoid blocking the digitisation processes. The aim should be to counteract the uncontrolled growth of shadow IT while combining the best solutions from the range of cloud providers for the respective application area. This is the only way to simultaneously pursue heterogeneous requirements such as flexibility, agility, operation scalability, optimisation of the employee and customer experiences, and increasing cost efficiency.

This also changes the tasks of the IT department. Streamlined IT processes which quickly clarify if and how such solutions could be integrated are crucial for departments to quickly react to current developments and for testing out new ideas.
In addition, IT departments are increasingly losing their overview of actual IT budgets since shadow IT solutions are procured and implemented using the budgets of the respective departments. The lack of transparency in this regard makes strategic IT planning very difficult.

The development of multi-cloud concepts also requires strong software asset management. Both form the basis for a functioning data and business integration. Furthermore, the IT department must ensure that the integration of data from other systems is always implemented internally and externally using a carefully selected standard software in a quick, simple and flexible manner – IT often requires the direct support of the departments in this regard too.

This is how companies drive digitisation forward strategically

When it comes to digitisation, if you’re not just looking for quick results, you must ensure that company data and applications are transparently structured, as well as searchable and accessible as needed for other departments, and that an integration of data and systems can be implemented and automated without excessive expenditures. With these three steps:

  • software asset management
  • multi cloud
  • standardised data integration

 

those dealing with process and cost optimisation, new value creation models and business integration can truly take advantage of in-house company expertise. Those who bring light to the darkness of shadow IT will help drive digitisation forward strategically in their company and generate added value through the solid connection of data and systems.

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