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January 30, 2017
Out of the shadows and into the light
By: Michael Liebow

Some call it distrust. Others, disdain. Some, dislike. IT folks have a word for colleagues outside of IT who take IT decisions and operations into their own hands. Under the guise of business urgency, it is equally hard to argue that cloud-enabled “Shadow IT” has produced innovations and software solutions that address real business needs. The benefits delivered by cloud-based approaches, however, don’t offset the need for proper governance and management to avoid potential risks. And the risks are many. Operational integrity and security is a big one. Cost management is another. Responsibility for any problems has fallen (and will almost certainly continue to fall) on the IT organization’s shoulders, even if it had no involvement with, or even awareness of, what was going on in the shadows.

IT leaders are recognizing it’s in their own (and their business’s) interests to bring Shadow IT into the light. By legitimizing these pure cloud efforts—or “Mode 2,” as coined by some—IT can gain greater visibility into the risks, as well as the benefits, of a more agile approach. From our experience, we know these two speeds of IT can exist side-by-side—call them traditional IT and agile IT (Gartner just calls them Mode-1 and Mode-2). But bringing “Mode 2” and the more traditional “Mode 1” groups together in a symbiotic, bimodal environment is not easy, or perhaps, even necessary.

As many IT leaders have learned, the goal in creating a bimodal environment should not be to dismantle, contain or curtail Mode 2 activities. The focus should be, instead, on establishing ground rules that reduce organizational risk—without diminishing the agility that has driven so many Mode 2 innovations. It’s a true balancing act. IT leaders need to improve the IT organization’s integrity by enforcing security and compliance protocols. But they need to do so in a way that doesn’t restrict Mode 2 developers or stifle their ambitions. The key word is enable.

IT leaders looking to create a bimodal operation should direct the transition with a measured and phased approach. For starters, IT leaders need to discover all the projects and applications that are running in the shadows. They need to assess whether and how to govern them, evolving their Mode 1 environment, processes and workflows to support these new apps. For Mode 2 projects in production, capabilities like cost management, governance, policy enforcement, service enablement and process redesign, to name a few, require a different operating mantra with different roles, enhanced processes and new tooling. That’s when the heavy lifting starts. That’s also when a Cloud Management Platform (CMP) can prove its value as it encapsulates best practices and allows for automation, standardization and self-service.

A CMP represents a broad set of capabilities and services that help IT leaders reduce the complexity of the technology landscape and manage risk and costs as a single entity. Convenience, agility and speed are important CMP outcomes. But a highly evolved CMP that bridges Mode 1 and 2 operations together can actually offer much more*:

  • The freedom DevOps wants with the control that IT Ops requires

  • Service and application blueprints that boost speed and quality

  • Controls and analytics to effectively manage capacity and cost

  • A map and expert guidance to navigate the growing number of providers and resources

  • An effective compliance framework that frees IT to focus on critical business needs

  • Tough security protocols and more effective service operations

Once a cloud management platform has been introduced, IT leaders can breathe a bit easier. Their focus can shift to evolving their DevOps and service integration capabilities. In this phase, the aim should be to maintain, or even embellish, the link between developers and the cloud provider’s native console and also make legacy operations more cloud savvy—at both the infrastructure and application layers. Ultimately, as organizations complete their transition to a bimodal model, and here’s the real kicker, they can accelerate their exit from existing private data centers and other assets. That’s when the real value will emerge in terms of significant lower operating costs and greater agility, with the added plus of on-demand computing capacity.

At the end of the day, both traditional IT and shadow IT proponents have a lot to gain by transitioning to a bimodal IT operating model with the help of CMP to bridge both old and new. Those professionals aligned to a Mode 2 view of the world will finally get the legitimacy they deserve and the support and structure they need. And Mode 1 professionals will be exposed to new opportunities that a cloud-friendly environment presents. It’s ultimately a win-win for IT. And that’s a win for the business.

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