Cloud Based Offerings Encouraged Shadow IT, Problems Brought Them Back to Core IT

The launch of the new disruptive solution was well attended by CIOs and Business alike; some of the early adopter customers spoke highly of the solution, especially the business who claimed freedom from IT after integration was done with existing ERP solutions during implementation. Euphoric pronouncements elevated the solution to the next best thing since the spreadsheet came into their lives. The going was great until some of the audience started digging deeper into the success seeking clarifications.

Yes the solution was easy to deploy, it is Cloud based; we pay as we go based on number of users (aren’t most licenses like that?) and there is also an app which I can download and use when I am traveling. There was some help taken from IT for integrating with the ERP and then with the CRM and yes they had to work on cleaning the data feed. No it is not complete freedom from IT as the system administration and user rights management is still done by the IT team; but I can build my own reports and workflows!

Opening up the conversation in contrast another customer mentioned that many of the users don’t actually use the mobile app which was seen as a prerequisite for selecting the solution and paying a premium. The self-service model had started with a bang, but was floundering with users now wanting IT to generate the information and insights for them to consume. The novelty factor had gone down with other work taking precedence over extracting information on demand or accessing it while on the move.

Who wants self-service was a discussion that suddenly filled the room much to the embarrassment of the organizers who attempted to deflect the discussion and bring it back to the merits of their solution and why the prospects present should seriously explore their brand of snake oil. A senior CIO refuted the claims that competition did not offer the same agility, flexibility or feature set which was grudgingly accepted with a counterclaim that some existing customers had been transitioned from competition.

Conventional IT a score of years back did pose challenges to agile deployment of solutions and at times delayed success with challenged projects. A decade back the same IT organizations began to push the business to actively participate in creating mobile engagement models, pushing the realms of self-service across functions. Initial candidates were travel and expense, followed by Employee and Manager Self-service driven by Human Resource solutions, though some even today continue parallel paper processes.

Closer to the beginning of the current decade, service providers proclaimed victory over IT by wooing the business with solutions that could be bought with a swipe of the credit card. You can get anything you want without asking your IT folks who normally say NO to everything; the promise led to a smattering of success and large number of headaches for IT who were being called out for tasks like opening up ports on the router, data dumps (instead of integration with on premise systems) and rescue when something did not work !

The last bastion was management reports, dashboards, and analytics moving to the Cloud with a promise of self service; what they got instead was garbage in-garbage out ! Some power users did manage to hold on for some time, they succumbed when on-demand analytics and complexity of data across sources needed them to go back to IT for real-time integration. The shift to collaborative design of solutions between IT and Business brought back the success which alluded companies in solo forays.

Today most solutions are pushing the limits on self-service with mobile first strategies (browsers are passé now). Leave & Attendance, Travel & Expense, Approvals of all kinds are all mobile; the rest require a login from a larger screen – tab or laptop or desktop. Thumbing around is the new way of working with no time limitations; what started with email pings on mobile is a flood of notifications vying for attention. Everything is urgent and requires hyper speed and attention stretching the already extended work day.

IT has embraced the self-service culture even though it puts higher demands on resources; data security requires locking down devices and monitoring, and diversity of devices increases complexity of deployment and maintenance. CIOs are also innovating with new technology disruptions pushing the envelope to automate everything in sight. On the flip side, busy executives are happily delegating some of the critical and important work downwards compromising the quality of decision making and possible outcomes.

I wonder when the breakpoint will be reached!

(This blog is reposted with permission from Arun Gupta. To read Arun's Blog, you can visit:

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Arun Gupta

Arun Gupta is Managing Partner & Director at Ingenium Advisory. Arun has been the CIO of Cipla, one of the ...

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