In my previous post I made my case for formal IT becoming more like shadow IT by co-locating people with our customers. I closed that post with what I thought were two logical questions about this proposal:
- Just exactly how is this co-location structured? Are you saying we put PC techs and programmers out with our customers?
- How do we accomplish this? It calls for more people than I have available.
I will now try to address these questions.
Keep in mind that what I've proposed deals with our tactical duties such as PC problems, questions about how programs work, connection issues, and simple programming issues. These are the issues our PC techs and Help Desk people deal with on a daily basis. In our quest for efficiency we've decided the best way to handle these issues is to physically locate all these people in the IT department. Although this centralization has made us more efficient the presence of shadow IT indicates it has made us less effective. Our customers have taken on the task of dealing with many issues because we in IT can't or won't.
I've proposed replacing shadow IT with formal IT people co-located or embedded with our customers. Specifically, I suggest we disband the PC tech and Help Desk organization and move these people out to work directly with our customers. These folks remain IT employees and take direction from IT on items of policy, standards etc. However, they take direction from the business units in terms of what things to work on first.
Because of our previous focus on efficiency we've tended to hire people for these positions that have "depth" that is, they are narrow in their focus. They know a lot about their specialty but don't have a lot of "width" -- knowing something about a lot of areas. In contrast, most shadow IT folks have more width than depth. To make this transition we will need to make sure we have a lot of communication and training. We also need to make sure we support these people by providing a way for them to come back to centralized IT when they have questions.
The second question is perhaps the more difficult one. Even if you are willing to convert all of the PC techs and Help Desk people you may find that you don't have enough to provide someone for every group. Plus we've all been around long enough to know that we aren't going to be able to increase headcount either.
The first step is to figure out who currently makes up shadow IT. Ask your people and talk to your users and you can probably get a pretty good handle on who makes up shadow IT. In many cases, the departments are very open about who their shadow IT person is and acknowledge it freely. In other cases, fearing a loss of service they deny having any shadow IT. Keep in mind that not every "department" has a full-time shadow IT person. Smaller departments either have someone who does this only part-time or more likely they use someone from a neighboring department.
The next step is to work with the business unit manager to convert some of the shadow IT people to formal IT personnel. To do this you have to address their WIIFM (What's In It For Me) issues. If you can show that by doing this you still provide the same service they have had through shadow IT plus the IT concerns are addressed they will be more accepting of the change. Business unit managers understand and really do support the IT concerns as long as IT's concerns don't hold them back. If you can demonstrate the same level of service through co-location they will support the move. Taking people out of their budget and into IT's can also be an added incentive (again, as long as the service level stays the same).
In doing all of this don't forget to work with the Human Resources and Accounting folks. The key point is that although IT's headcount and budget goes up, there is an offsetting decrease in other areas for no net change.
Not all departments will go along with this. For these groups I'd suggest skipping them and implement this where you can. Over time as people see actual result they may be more agreeable to make the switch. In fact, you may want to roll this out a department or major area at a time to work out the issues. This gives you the opportunity to adjust the program as you go along and to demonstrate your seriousness about making this work.
Lastly, don't forget your IT folks. Don't blindly ship them off with nary a fare-thee-well. This change may be difficult for them. Support them with training, communication and support.
Co-location isn't easy. It makes our management task more difficult. But keep in mind, our ultimate goals is to provide better service.
What do you think about this?
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