​Lowering IT costs by embracing shadow IT

Government CIOs and IT leaders should stop fighting the proliferation of shadow IT and embrace its benefits.

Do no harm and stay flexible — those are the two imperatives facing federal information technology leadership in today’s complex digital environment.

Federal IT is a quilt work of diverse technologies, including infrastructure and software as services and applications, along with many legacy systems. In this new environment, the IT team’s mission is to keep everything working while adding the capabilities needed to maintain pace with changing business requirements, emerging issues and end-user demands.

These are tough challenges for any enterprise, but particularly in the public sector. For government agencies, the slow pace of acquisitions and the continued use of legacy systems is increasingly at odds with the fast pace of technology changes.

This dynamic gives rise to the dreaded “shadow IT” syndrome: end-users finding a way “around” IT to get the technology, service, or solution they need.


It is time for government CIOs and IT leaders to stop fighting the proliferation of shadow IT and embrace its benefits.

The trick to removing the stigma and mitigating risk is taking the right steps to make certain that “unauthorized IT” is brokered using a centralized approach to IT governance that preserves its benefits like flexibility, innovation, accessibility and cost-effectiveness.

Government IT leadership needs to work with their respective agency program leaders to develop the roadmap needed to transform IT governance structures from just a focus on physical infrastructure model to a services-delivered model. IT governance structure should be realigned to managing and delivering services to maximize technology investments to meet evolving missions and increasing demand.

In addition to processes for requesting, provisioning, monitoring and maintaining IT, the services model requires its own variety of metering, billing and reporting functions. Just as service-level agreements must be carefully calibrated, the hybrid IT governance model requires artful navigation of each organization’s culture as well as strategic application of services to ensure compliance with enterprise wide requirements.

CIO and IT leaders must be allowed, and willing, to take on the role of facilitators and coaches. Their expertise will help the organization properly identify and prioritize needs, and to take the leadership role in ensuring that IT services, sourced in or out of the agency, are implemented to preserve control and connectivity while accommodating the demand for variety from user-driven applications and services.


The most challenging work is at the front end of the transformation process: determining the agency’s needs and calibrating how to align benefits from shadow IT with the levels of service required for the mission. Actually shifting to the X-as-a-service model is essentially a block-and-tackle function that should draw upon collaboration with an experienced partner to streamline the move with minimal disruption.

Shadow IT brings innovation and flexibility, along with expanded capabilities, access and performance to help end users — and their agencies — meet mission requirements. By combining the service-delivery benefits of shadow IT with a governance approach to centralizing service management, IT leaders can achieve greater cost efficiencies.

Scott Gaydos is chief technologist, U.S. public sector at Hewlett-Packard. Hear him elaborate on how to “Lower IT Costs by Embracing Shadow IT” at FedScoop’s 7th Annual “Lowering the Cost of Government with IT” Summit Aug. 27.

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