Cloud Connect: Building Bridges Between IT and 'Shadow IT'

As employees increasingly turn to the cloud to select and provision applications that meet their specific needs, IT leaders find themselves struggling to stay connected with the services running across their infrastructure.

This level of self-service is widely known as "shadow IT." However, the legitimate IT department is typically looking for ways to prevent it from happening. Under the best of circumstances, there are concerns about security, resources, and similar issues that map to the ultimate success of the company. At worst, the issue can devolve into a political turf battle as users seek to demonstrate their autonomy while IT people seek to assert their control over the infrastructure.

But, the two do not need to be at odds with one another, according to two presenters at UBM Tech's Cloud Connect conference, which is underway this week in Santa Clara, Calif.

[Related: Cloud Connect: Cloud Adoption Will Eventually Support Billions Of Connected Devices ]

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"The line between the reality and the illusion of shadow IT is getting fuzzy; it can be difficult to know exactly what is approved and what is not," said Margaret Dawson, Hewlett-Packard's vice president of product marketing for HP Public Cloud. "But there are a number of things that can be done in order to gain better control of the situation while still enabling users to have at least some level of autonomy."

Dawson advised the conference attendees to begin the process with an audit of cloud services. This audit would include identifying, locating and classifying the data, and then conducting a review of management and security policies that drive the company mandate, maximize efficiency and minimize risk.

From this effort, clearly articulated cloud policies should not only be developed but also systematically communicated to the employees through various training vehicles. In most cases, she says it is not necessary to completely disallow shadow IT. The emphasis is on development of a model that works for all parties concerned.

"Give a little," she said. "Don't automatically shut everything down. Throw them a bone if you can. Identify what you will allow to stay on the network, and then shut down the rest."

NEXT: Leveraging Creativity

Another Cloud Connect presenter, Lisa Larson, vice president of enterprise cloud solutions at Rackspace, noted that is more important than ever for IT professionals to empower employees and be innovative and transformative in the use of technology.

"Spinning up a cloud service is very easy for the users," she said. "And you have to keep in mind that technologists, by nature, will always want to play with the latest whiz-bang technologies and find new ways to use them for innovative purposes."

Larson explained that Rackspace's IT brain trust dealt with the situation by building their own service catalog from which employees could choose the assets that best meets their needs.

"All of this happened under the umbrella of IT," she said. "The services catalog was developed and even marketed within the organization so that people would be aware that these options were available to them. This is very empowering for the users. And after the users were empowered, the emphasis then shifted towards identifying new services that should be added to the catalog."

Both executives agreed that a spirit of collaboration and cooperation provided the best approach. But while innovative ways to address the issue are limited only by the bounds of creativity, it is also clear that it is incumbent upon the IT department to protect corporate assets at the same time it is enabling the users.

"It's not an easy task," said HP's Dawson. "You've got have the guts to set those policies and then deliver on them."