Report: End Users Are Winning the Shadow IT War - InformationWeek
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11/29/2018
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Report: End Users Are Winning the Shadow IT War

IT continues to lose control of technologies used in the enterprise. A recent report explains just how empowered end users have become, especially when it comes to communications and collaboration technologies.

Gone are the days when the IT group controlled all enterprise technologies. From laptops and smartphones to SaaS subscriptions, IT has been losing its formerly all-powerful grip on technology procurement slowly but surely. In fact, a recent survey of 750 business professionals by unified collaboration and communications services provider Nextplane shows that end user attitudes and expectations are almost teenage-like when it comes to communication and collaboration tools -- resisting when told which technology to use -- although the struggle between IT and end users is more comprehensive than that.

Let’s agree to disagree

Enterprises tend to choose a certain class of products, namely “enterprise-class” products that have sophisticated administration and security features. However, while the business is paying for Skype for Business, Cisco Jabber or IBM Sametime, employees are using their own favorites such as Slack and Google Hangouts.

“When we did some informal research, we noticed there was tension between what end users want to use and IT thinks they should use to do their jobs,” said Farzin Shahidi, CEO of Nextplane. “In the past, IT could mandate anything, but as cloud-based services such as Box and Dropbox emerged, people started using them to share files because they didn’t want to hassle with a complicated document management platform.”

Image: Pixabay
Image: Pixabay

End users insist on using their own tools, or else

Forget about sneaking that luggable Mac, laptop or smartphone in through the back or side door. If users don’t like the tools their companies provide, they won’t use them.

87 % of Nextplane survey respondents said their companies provide collaboration technologies, although 46% said they or their team have introduced new technologies, and nearly three-fourths of those said they’ve succeeded in implementing their choice of tools. Individual respondents (63%) and teams in organizations (42%) are loyal to their favorite tools because they fit well into workflows.

 “This goes beyond communications and collaboration,” said Shahidi. “There is [considerable] tension between IT and what is corporate mandated and what end users want to use. Our research shows end users are winning.”

More than half of the survey participants said IT has the final say on the technologies used in the company, although IT’s power is not absolute in nine out of 10 cases. Not surprisingly, users think they know their requirements better than IT, which is not a new phenomenon. The difference is that end users have more power than they once did, and their power is increasing over time.

“We see sort of a religious war where end users say if I can’t use this tool I won’t join the company or I’ll leave,” said Shahidi. “In this hot economy, if you’re not providing me the tools I need to do my job, I’m not going to stick around.”

They’ll revolt against IT

More than half of respondents said they or another team has pushed back against IT-mandated technologies, and department heads (39%) are the most likely to do it. Apparently, defiance is working about half the time because 46% said IT made an exception for their team. One-tenth of respondents said they’re using their choice of tools to defy IT.

“If end users like something, they’re going to bring it in and if IT doesn’t like it, that’s too bad,” said Shahidi. “Our research shows end users know what they want and they are not backing down when IT starts to dictate the technology they use. [End users] can prove it’s their budget and productivity.”

Of course, when things go wrong, who do business users call? IT, of course, since IT’s job is to keep things up and running. Of course, IT’s role is or should be more strategic than that as businesses pursue digital transformation and compete on all things tech-enabled.

Where is IT in this research? Shahidi said Nextplane plans to do a follow-up survey with IT to get their opinions so the outlooks of the two groups can be compared.

Lisa Morgan is a freelance writer who covers big data and BI for InformationWeek. She has contributed articles, reports, and other types of content to various publications and sites ranging from SD Times to the Economist Intelligent Unit. Frequent areas of coverage include ... View Full Bio

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