Monday, February 22, 2016

If your CXO buys Cloud based solutions without IT involvement, is it Shadow IT ?

At a marketing conference the CMO was childishly wide eyed seeing technology options on display which he was unaware of. His IT team had been talking about some of the solutions and benefits that could be created for the enterprise, he had not focused on them leaving it to his team. Now having seen possibilities, he wanted to get the tools and technology into his fold as soon as possible. So he asked the vendor to deep dive with his team to ascertain how quickly they could adopt the solutions.

After the song and dance, demo and reference checks, he was convinced that the solution is exactly what he needed. It was superior to the current laborious manual process followed which always ended up just a little late in comparison to required timeline. IT had been chasing him for a long time, but he did not understand technology; so he had deflected the discussion to his team who were always looking at the operational aspects of the solutions rather than the big picture that needed to be defined.

The CIO and the IT team gave up the chase since it appeared to be a futile exercise; other parts of the enterprise were happy to collaborate and implement new age solutions and appreciated their contributions. Thus when the CMO saw the solutions on display at the conference he was overawed and wanted to make up lost time as soon as possible. The vendor convinced him that he did not need support from IT as the solution was cloud based and required no infrastructure except an internet connection.

Weeks later the solution was procured and deployed quickly; it was easy enough to use, did not require training, worked on their laptops and most smartphones, allowed analytics that the business wanted, and was quite affordable with monthly subscription which he could fund from his budget. Integration to existing data sources was not considered since his team had almost all the data in spreadsheets that they used to conduct analysis and created customer engagement models; the CMO believed he had a good deal.

Months later he presented outcomes from his new baby in the Management Committee Meeting to a round of applause which he beamingly accepted. The success story continued for a while as the marketing team leveraged the solution which provided better outcomes than the earlier manual way of working. The dream run would have continued except that they reached a plateau and to leverage new functionality now required help from IT to integrate with existing data sources to move to the next level.

Success creates arrogance that can be the undoing not just for the individual but also for the team. Emboldened by success of his earlier indiscretion, he hired resources to address the requirement. Unfortunately to get what he needed, there was no way to circumvent IT and thus he approached the CIO who feigned surprise and looked adequately stunned at the request. The IT vendor had apprised him of the purportedly illicit relationship which the CIO did not confront since it was running of its own steam.

The CIO did not throw tantrums neither did he chastise the CMO; his demeanor and approach to the request had the CMO confused on whether the request would be reported to the CEO or discussed in the Management Committee meeting or the CIO will now ask for his pound of flesh or he would just acquiesce to the request. The CMO did know that if he did not get the required data feed, the fairy tale would come to a horrific end which would also mean opening the proverbial can of creepy crawlies.

With benevolence the CIO asked for an all hands meeting with Marketing in which he explained the impact of the CMO’s request. There was a need to understand the elements required, security of data in motion and at rest, ability to maintain the interface while ensuring that exceptions are addressed, and finally data quality. In the manual world, marketing team had increasingly spent time managing some of these issues. The CMO realized the complexity and sensing no animosity with relief agreed to work together.

Cloud based models will entice CXOs to explore uncharted territories as they have low entry barriers and easy pickings to validate use cases. I believe that CIOs should proactively offer assistance to such forays rather than blocking them considering business ownership increases chances of sustained adoption. Conventional mindset would paint this as Shadow IT or a threat to the supremacy of the CIO; I see this as an extended arm of IT which can create win-win propositions for business, IT, and vendors.

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