The CMO and Shadow IT

Apr 24, 2015 6:08:31 PM


As a CMO, I have a much stronger voice when it comes to IT spending than I did 10 or even five years ago. Having the right tools, services and applications is essential to analyzing big data, responding to customer needs, and quickly rolling out new products and services – all of which create competitive advantages and drive revenue. In fact, Gartner predicts that the CMO will outspend the CIO on IT by 2017.

As a result of the increased business value of technology in marketing, many of my fellow CMOs are embracing shadow IT. Shadow IT occurs when employees use hardware, software and applications that haven’t been approved by an organization’s IT department. Instead of going through the proper protocols, employees will provision what they feel will help them do their jobs more effectively, whether it’s a cloud-based file-sharing platform or project management tool.

The consumerization of IT, the emergence of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies, and the simplicity of cloud solutions have made shadow IT more prevalent. Employees want to use familiar tools that are simple to set up and use, whether IT has approved them or not. Shadow IT also empowers the CMO, forever focused on productivity and business outcomes, to sidestep IT and quickly test new ideas and solutions.

The problem with shadow IT is that it’s fraught with security and compliance risks and performance issues. The vast majority of technology used in a shadow IT environment are consumer-grade, which generally don’t provide adequate security or meet regulatory compliance standards. IT is unable to control and protect sensitive data and company assets because it can’t apply the same security measures that are used for supported technologies. Shadow IT can also cause bandwidth bottlenecks and performance degradation when new tools conflict with or aren’t properly integrated into the IT environment.

There are steps that can be taken to prevent the circumvention of IT without compromising the flexibility and agility that shadow IT can provide. The primary reason for bypassing IT is the perception that it takes forever to review and approve IT requests and provision and deploy a solution. Start by streamlining these processes and fast-tracking the implementation of critical technology solutions. The CIO should work with the CMO to choose the best solutions to prevent redundancy, reduce costs and simplify management. Also, make sure employees are aware of the consequences of going rogue and that shadow IT won’t be tolerated.

Finally, it’s important to realize that shadow IT has its benefits. Employees bypass IT because they want to be more productive, so use this opportunity to find out what existing services and applications aren’t meeting user demands. Shadow IT can actually open the door for collaboration with employees, enabling IT to build trust and support for company-approved tools. IT can then set up a controlled environment for users to test new applications and services before they are approved and formally rolled out for widespread use.

The CMO needs to respect the security, compliance and network health concerns of the CIO, while the CIO needs to respect the productivity and revenue-related concerns of the CMO. By working together and implementing best practices that work for everyone, CMOs and CIOs can deliver the tools and services that users want without increasing risk for the organization as a whole.

By John Flores
Vice President, Marketing

Topics: Blog

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