Employees are on the front lines, and they know they have to deliver top-notch customer experiences. Regardless of official IT procedures, corporate policy, or best practices, the customer has expectations, and employees will seek out and find the most efficient ways to meet them.
Unfortunately, efforts to maintain secure networks and workstations have created barriers to delivering delightful customer experiences that users have relentlessly attempted to tear down.
Shadow IT is a symptom of poor customer experience
Shadow IT has become so prevalent that it has spawned entire Shadow IT “departments” that install and manage “rogue” software and systems.
Mobile devices are often the most visible component of shadow IT, and corporate IT has responded with a bevy of mobile device management tools to regain some semblance or order. Mobile devices, however, are by no means the only factor to consider. Employees flock to cloud storage solutions like Dropbox, or free email services, simply because these “wide-open” services are in many instances easier to use or have better features than the corporate solutions.
However, instead of focusing energy on the eradication of Shadow IT, perhaps it would be more beneficial to analyze why it exists in the first place.
Yes, employees simply want to work smarter (not harder) and so they seek out tools that enable them to do that. But, why is it that the approved tools and systems are often not the tools employees choose to use?
Perhaps it is because, for years, most IT tools were selected based upon business decisions that considered IT nothing more than a department “in” the business: a department whose only responsibility was to monitor and maintain the equipment, and applications, and email and printers and servers.
NEWS FLASH: that equipment, those applications, and email, and printers and servers “are” the business. IT “is” the business. This mind shift is the digital transformation to which companies must adapt.
Digital Transformation can improve the customer experience
The digital transformation, however, is not solely about adding new systems, better systems, faster computers, more servers, or becoming the fabled “paperless office.” Digital transformation is not about having faster newer stuff so that employees can do more work in less time. The digital transformation is a fancy “new” term for a very old concept: the concept that:
The “customer experience” is what has,
and indeed what always will
drive business success.
Businesses are beginning to realize that “systems and equipment” (in and of themselves) are secondary to the customer experience. IT’s job is to deliver exceptional customer experiences, period…end of line.
As such, IT can no longer be treated as a separate line item in the annual budget planning process, with a pre-defined increase or decrease, as if IT should be treated no differently than office supplies and cleaning services.
IT is the direct interface with the customer. IT is how the customer communicates with the business. IT is how the customer makes purchases from the business.
DevOps manages the disruption
“Most managers think the key to growth is developing new technologies and products. But often, this is not so. To unlock the next wave of growth, companies must embed these technologies in disruptive new business models.”
Clayton Christensen, author of Innovators Dilemma.
Compartmentalized and siloed IT departments are quickly falling out of favor because of the inherent lag time built into the system (which gives rise to Shadow IT). In its place, companies that embrace the digital transformation are shifting to a DevOps mentality. The DevOps mindset can provide victories on multiple fronts in the fight against Shadow IT, and also improve the customer experience.
The digital transformation requires robust and open communication between developers and operational units, and agility is required to meet rapidly changing customer demands. DevOps provides open channels for this communication.
Additionally, automation is an integral part of delivering consistent customer experiences. The speed benefits of automation alone can help eliminate the need for Shadow IT.
For example, when new resources are spun up on an as needed basis, automation can ensure disaster recovery, high availability, service level agreements, access management, security, patching, and provisioning policies are automatically in place and consistent. Time saved can be time re-allocated to perfecting the customer experience.
If IT is simply “reacting” to the changing marketplace and not “leading” the change, the digital transformation can be “disruptive” in a negative way. However, the most forward-thinking companies often transform entire industries (Lyft, Airbnb, Netflix, etc.), and rake in revenue because of it.
Simply put, to fully embrace the digital transformation, companies must return their focus to the customer experience, and realize that there are no more “IT initiatives”…there are only “Business Initiatives.”
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