IT departments have always been tasked to help improve their business' process speeds, efficiency and employee productivity.
But in recent years, thanks to the introduction of powerful technologies into most employees' personal lives, such as smartphones, cloud and 4G, workers' expectations have radically increased.
Thanks to this businesses are now going through a radical evolution to be more flexible and mobile, offering employees the ability to be just as productive on the move as they are in the office.
While this sounds fantastic, as noted by numerous IT leaders at a roundtable debate hosted by V3 and Sungard Availability Services, there is a dark side to the mobile revolution that is casting a serious shadow over many firms' long-term plans.
Increased expectations resulting from the consumerisation of IT is a chief concern on many managers' minds and, as noted by Virgin Active Health Clubs enterprise architect Hiten Vadukul: "Staff expect apps to work as well as they do on their iPad. But they don't understand how IT investment works."
Ealing, Hammersmith and West College London head of systems Martin King mirrored Vadakul's sentiment, saying he has had a similar experience.
"Once upon a time in education IT was rare. But today everyone's doing IT. The perceptions are different and I know have people telling me what to do all the time. They'll say 'why can't I do this [on school systems], I can do it on Facebook'," he said.
Many of the experts said as well as adding complexity to their environments, the employees' familiarity with technology is dangerous as it gives them a false impression they are as informed as an IT professional.
Care UK's James Greenman noted: "The world is much more complex and people now think they all have an understanding of IT's complex processes. Every worker or customer is a consumer of IT somewhere and now has an opinion. This is one of the forces driving shadow IT."
Crowe Clark Whitehill IT assurance manager Lloyd Barrows agreed with Greenman noting: "A problem is people don't understand what IT is doing. There's a disconnect where people don't explain what they're doing and this causes problems."
Ratcliffe Groves Partnership IT manager Nick Ioannou said the shadow IT environment resulting from employees' foolhardy approach to technology is doubly dangerous as it leads them to ignore cyber security best practice and put their employee in danger.
"I spend a lot of my time managing expectation. People think emails are limitless, I keep telling them you can't send a DVD's work of data. People just think we're slowing them down and compare it to their speeds at home. They don't understand all the layers and security we add on," he said.
While some businesses had traditionally dealt with the problem by locking down their office environments, the professionals noted this is no longer an option due to the UK government's 30 June ruling to give employees the legal right to ask for flexible working.
Hyde Group IT director Tim Linsdell said the lack of choice is causing many IT departments to dangerously ignore what is happening in their systems, or clash with employees. "Agility is used as an excuse for not knowing what's going on and can cause chaos," he noted.
Disturbingly, when placed with this conundrum, Duncan Watkins IT program manager for global services delivery CEB, noted many others are attempting to offload the issue to security providers.
"People believe security controls often cover the compliance aspect. Which is why people often turn it over as they think its done when they do," he said.
Sungard Availability Services enterprise cloud specialist Metin Algir noted this is dangerous as it can lead them to ignore their legislative duties when dealing with workers' needs, or considering new technologies.
"When IT flag they have a requirement the first question is 'can I speak to your compliance officer'. There perspective is always different. It's important for IT to understand the legal parameters through which they can move," he said.
Data compliance and protection is a growing issue facing businesses of all sizes. New powers to the UK Information Commissioner's Office means firms found to be mishandling data can be faced with massive fines. The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) revealed to V3 it has issued fines in excess of £5m for data breaches since it was given this power in 2010 earlier in September.
Shadow IT is one of many insights and concerns raised during Sungard's roundtable discussion on agile business. The experts also raised key concerns about the long-term reliability of many cloud service providers.
For an in-depth look at the full discussion check out V3's event blog.
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