Experience counts, especially in a fast changing world
Many CIOs work under constraints imposed by budget cuts and emphasis on large resource consuming strategic initiatives. This often results in individual departments not getting what they perceive they need from their IT department. They often go around IT and begin implementing solutions outside the purview of IT, thus Shadow IT.
With the advent of new tools and cloud based solutions, departments in the business can now start creating their own solutions without IT assistance. What is IT to do? As one of Napoleon’s generals said, “recognize the inevitable and help it along the way”. The tide is too strong to fight. IT must provide tools and solutions that can be deployed by the businesses under the framework and governance of IT.
As a CIO, I constantly had departments asking for a simple Access database, or an Excel file that multiple people could manage, or a quality tracking system to better manage manufacturing and customer service issues. I struggled with this for quite a long time. Our resources were always allocated to those larger, more highly valued projects, thus the simpler “one-off” request were not being properly addressed.
During the upgrade of our Oracle ERP system, I used a tool called Intranets.com to help coordinate and collaborate amongst a diverse group of geographical wide-spread consultants and constituents. I found that all of the pre-built features allowed for the quick development of simple solutions and collaboration tools. When Microsoft came out with SharePoint, I saw how SharePoint could be an even more powerful tool to solve the issue of the “one-off” request and Shadow IT. We were able to give IT tools to the business users for them to solve their own business problems. This allowed IT to concentrate their resources on the major resource intensive strategic issues.
We implemented Microsoft’s SharePoint 2007 with a specific set of functionalities and a base topology. The plan was to implement the basic foundation along with specific point solutions across multiple departments to spread the adoption of the SharePoint system. We had a solution for the legal department to help manage the intellectual properties lists. We converted a multi-user Excel system that managed professional engineering licenses into a SharePoint list. We also implemented a simple Quality Management system utilizing a SharePoint list. But more importantly, we trained one intrepid department, so that they could create their own solutions. This turned out to be the most powerful impact of the implementation of SharePoint.
This one department started creating SharePoint lists to manage all aspects of the manufacturing process, from the maintenance and status of a tool die, to the engineering process documentation. With the proper training and governance, the department could easily solve their own problems and create their own solutions within a controlled framework that was managed by IT. However, it must be noted that the process must be managed (governed) properly or you will have hundreds of “one-off sites” and you will once again be out of control.
By providing a well controlled and governed framework along with a broad and deep tool like SharePoint, IT provided a platform that allowed the business departments to solve their own business issues more timely than would have been possible if they had to wait for their projects to work through the IT backlog. SharePoint provided the framework and tool set within a properly governed environment to help eliminate some of the Shadow IT.