Human Resources

Coming Out of the Shadows: Turning, Not Keeping, the Lights On

Phillip Higgins, Senior Business Intelligence Consultant in New Zealand identified with Martin Veitch’s August 2nd article Shadow IT Threatens CIOs as Biz-Tech Relationship Changes and has written his own response.

As the IT landscape changes with the consumerisation of IT, BYOD, mobility and the cloud, so do the demands required to navigate it. The duopoly of both increased fragmentation of service, platform and portfolio and demands for a single data environment and digital platform encompassing one source of the truth has the potential to leave many leaders bewildered as they struggle to cope with IT processes geared towards replicability in a business and technological environment changing at a pace never before seen. Old metaphors of the leader navigating turbulent times are defunct when that turbulence becomes the perfect storm – even anchoring the boat firmly in the traditional eye leaves the business in a whirlpool of unmatched requirements and suboptimal outcomes.

As the shadow darkens to encompass a post-GFC and post-post-modern world, it would seem that there is nowhere to look. And yet a single ray lay of light might suffice to illuminate the way. It could be that the leaders’ shadow is their own and the storm is bound by a teacup. The answer could lie in enlisting that most traditional of resource: the very people struggling to manage in the environment of change. Certainly command and control will not steer the ship: but in a tidal rip one does not swim against it but obliquely. A shared vision encompassing multiple (discip)lines and perspectives is a good start. Spatial intelligence directed internally to the business – mashing up roles and rewarding both discipline and creativity is a way to resolve conflicting demands. Process and governance relevance is also turning the lights on: why prescribe for creativity if foundational activities lack the required rigour?

More than ever, the IT leader becomes a mediator and listener: old business-theoretical models of political maneuvering and managing the reporting line therefore take a second place to the situational aspects of modern value creation. As the macro-economy changes, niche perspectives and spatial and temporal locality demand and drive innovation – the world turns at the same pace but we run faster than we have ever done. Perhaps the world will turn and shadow IT will find it is in a sweet spot of value illumination it has been too blind to recognise: its diversity and internal contradictions place it ideally to meet the demands of fragmentation, and fleeting value opportunities. If consumers are also more demanding than ever and ready to turn the lights off themselves, both a fleet-footed and rigorous IT practice consisting of the best people, could well be the answer to the darkness. Once the lights are on, keep them on and burning bright by ensuring the shadow is a metaphor for opportunity and the light a metaphor for growth.

Along the specialist – generalist continuum, today’s shadow-world demands both expertise and good decision-making. If this seems odd, the times are changing: post-modern knowledge production demands the best of your post-modern people. Let the “loonies” out of the “asylum” and let them run – but ensure they have the right direction and illuminate their way:  they could assist you in making sense of the conflicting demands that gives birth to shadow IT, in these changing times.


Phillip Higgins is a Senior Business Intelligence Consultantin New Zealand


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Phillip Higgins

Phillip Higgins, Senior Business Intelligence Consultant in New Zealand

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