Shadow IT, where technology services are procured outside of IT's control, should be embraced - but not necessarily welcomed - by CIOs.
That's one of the views to emerge from a CIO panel session at a recent IT Leaders Forum from V3's sister title Computing called 'Architecting your organisation for the future'.
Phil Durbin, Head of IT Systems at the Salvation Army explained that whilst he embraces shadow IT, that doesn't mean he encourages it.
"We've embraced the concept of BYOD [Bring Your Own Device] and shadow IT. We let our 700 church ministers [essentially department heads] to be relatively autonomous [in their IT purchasing decisions]. However corporate systems are kept secure and under our control. But notice I didnt say I encourage shadow IT, I said embrace! We know it's out there, but if they want to do their own thing we just have to embrace it."
Lukas Oberhuber, CTO of Simply Business admitted that shadow IT exists because corporate systems don't do everything every member of staff needs.
"The systems don't do what they need to, that's why there's shadow IT," said Oberhuber, who earlier in the session had advised IT leaders not to worry abot vendor lock-in. "So we embrace it and acknowledge that there are some things your existing tools don't do, which people need. If you pretend they don't exist, you'll be in a really bad place very quickly."
Durbin added: "If you embrace shadow IT, it's no longer shadow, because if staff know the IT deparment will support it, they'll come and bring it to us," They'll being it in from the dark side into the light."
Nick Ioannou, Head of IT at Ratcliffe Groves Partnership said it's surprising how many large firms don't have control over shadow IT.
"We're an information focal point for our clients, but we can't dictate to client what they use. Sometimes they're large financial companies so you'd think they'd know better. Some of biggest firms share huge files over Dropbox because there's nothing else to meet the need. Sometimes it's the only viable option so we just have to work with it.
"But we encourage people to use the paid version so there's an audit trail, and it's paid for corporately and not on smeone's credit card, and then they leave and the whole thing unravels," said Ioannou.
Alex Chen, director at IBM said that firms have to balance control with productivity.
"I was listening to a client briefing about IT transformation recently. It started with 50 CIOs all running their own business units, but that was ultimately too expensive. So they moved to a model of extreme control and whilst everyone followed the process, everything became very slow.
"So they used one CIO office to dictate a set of processes. Slowly shadow IT crept in, and people thought it wasn't working out. Individual business units were going to the cloud to make things work. Eventually they reverted back to no process and total chaos.
"You need a co-existence of innovation and processes. You need to be clear about where you can innovate and what needs to be dictated by processes," said Chen.
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