The real reason shadow IT is so widespread

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At your company, who’s responsible for what technology is bought and implemented?

It’s a critical question, with deep implications for how your company leverages technology to get things done and drive competitive advantage. A recent survey from Spiceworks takes a stab at answering this question. But while the survey offers a number of insights, it leaves out perhaps the most important constituency in the procurement process.

As you can surmise from the title—ITDMs and BDMs: Tech Purchase Superheroes—the Spiceworks survey was taken mostly from the standpoint of vendors trying to sell you hardware, software and services. It focuses on teasing out the differences between two key groups: IT decision makers (ITDMs) and business decision makers (BDMs). Amidst perceptions that the balance of power is shifting from IT to the business, the survey attempts to find out if the two groups work together in a smooth, well-oiled process or if they struggle to coordinate separate agendas. 

Here are some of the key findings: 

IT is typically more responsible for the initial phases of of the purchase process, including determining needs (84 percent to 53 percent), evaluating solutions, (86 percent to 48 percent) and making recommendations (86 percent to 44 percent).

But not surprisingly, the business often takes over when it comes to making the final purchase decision (52 percent to 33 percent), approving funds (50 percent to 13 percent) and approving purchases (47 percent to 22 percent). 

Ultimately, money talks, of course, and while IT folks may be the gatekeepers, they know what it’s like for someone else to hold the purse strings. ITDMs see themselves as part of the decision making team for only about half of the purchases they’re involved in, compared to two-thirds of BDMs in that situation.

What’s wrong with this picture?

So far, so good. But if you ask me, something—or someone—important is missing in this scenario. Put simply, where are the users in this process? As the BDMs and ITDMs are busy perusing the menu as they decide what tools and technologies the company should buy, users are often left on the sidelines choking down whatever solutions get handed to them. And on the flip side, since users are frequently not a formal part of the technology purchase process, technology vendors too often ignore them completely. 

The result? The rise of “shadow IT” to disrupt traditional IT procurement processes. In the world of the cloud and Everything-as-a-Service, users no longer have to wait for an alphabet soup of BDMs and ITDMs to decide what’s best for them, and very often they don’t.

Sure, shadow IT can actually help IT in a variety of ways, but it also carries big risks. If companies want to keep a lid on the reach of shadow IT—forget about eliminating it altogether; that train has left the station—they need to be proactive about involving users in the technology buying process.

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