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back to article IT departments need productivity plan: Gartner

Pockets of IT activity beyond the IT department are inevitable and clever IT folk will find a way to embrace it gently and then hatch plans to become so marvellously responsive that you deliver things users would otherwise build for themselves. So says Mark McDonald, Ph.D., a Group Vice President and Head of Research in Gartner …

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Mushroom

Shadow IT can and does occur. BOFH or no BOFH. But suggesting that the solution to this is simply that IT "become more efficient" (I.E. "do more with less") is beyond farcical. IT isn't some charity, working ourselves to death for the good of our user base and an occasional "attaboy."

If there is more to be done than is currently being done then one of three things is the likely cause:

A) There aren't enough resources available to get all the things done, and IT is prioritising to the best of their abilities, but will never be able to meet everyone's demands.

B) The Manatees "up thataway" are being an impediment to actually expending the resources in place and nothing can get done. (Yet Another TPS Report?!?)

C) The IT staff are all lazy gits who just aren't pulling their weight.

While all of these are possible, I find it difficult to believe that C is probably in most enterprises. If you subscribe to the theory that C must absolutely be true, then I think I have a far more likely scenario for you:

While you consider them to be doing nothing all day, your IT staffs are probably burning themselves out right now trying to meet overwhelming demand. Their health is declining, their sanity is fading and they feel trapped with no way out. (Who has time to look for a new job when there are mortgages/bills/etc. to pay and $deadline is looming?)

When they are finally burnt out and become useless, you probably discard them like spent fuel rods and go shopping for new ones. Why those stupid IT people keep asking for raises, quitting, or getting debilitating stress-induced illnesses is quite simply beyond you.

Sound close to home?

Maybe the IT folks should instead stop working themselves to death and hold out for more money.

</harrumph>

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Mushroom

lets try again and make sure its in english

D) The IT staff are all very busy and whilst they aren't looking suddenly have new IT type things to look after because the person who brought it left. Whilst complaining the server room is stolen and turned into a meeting room and some how other computery things appear in the new server closet because its IT?

/me bashes head on ball now obstructing walk way "DAMN AIR CONDITIONING CONTROLLER"

/me tempted to turn up air con so everyone else gets annoyed

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Pint

Comment of course not directed at the author, but at any idea-ball wielding manatee that happens to agree with Gartner's solution to this particular problem...

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On the whole 'hand it off to IT and tell them to make it work' line, where I work we have an extensive list of supported hardware and software on the company intranet. It gets updated often (you have to with mobile devices) and company policy is very clear : If you buy something that's not on that list, you're on your own. We can and have refused to support eejit managers who bought something that wasn't on the list but 'looked cool' and then didn't have a clue how to actually make it work.

We back this up with hard numbers that show that if we're fixing some accountard's random chinese knock off smartphone, we're not doing the things that actually help the company make money (or could cost it money some time in the future).

To be fair, we're pretty proactive about trying to keep up with what people want and if they want something unusual, most of the management know they can come to us as we'll work with them on it. It's give and take, basically. But we don't have much 'shadow IT' as a result.

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What I have encountered as a contractor is that the entrenched decision-making staff (sometimes an IT Manager, sometimes a Project Manager) don't want to pay for the right thing do be done in the right way.

It could take £n and x weeks to do the job properly, however for £2/3n and 3/4x weeks you can have a kludge of a system running that users hate because it only does half the job, and does it badly.

And the Manager responsible will pick the kludge, every time. "It can't be as bad as you say." "I'm sure it will be fine." "My design doesn't break Swiss law."

Yes it was; no it wasn't; and oh yes indeed it does, as the auditors are now confirming.

'Do more with less' is the mantra of someone who will accept sub-standard work, right up to the point it fails, when you will be blamed for it.

And if the IT person refuses to do sub-standard work? They are replaced with someone who will. Because the Manager fails to see the problem, that good IT costs more than most are willing to spend on it. It requires time spent thinking, in order to avoid any money deemed worthy of the IT budget being spent on an incompatible solution. It needs a testing facility, something that I rarely see in any workplace, large or small.

IT requires policies that don't hamper it, such as "Don't patch anything; it might break it" (NHS client, obviously). It needs a Manager who understands that even if the rest of the business is 9-5, the IT department isn't, so maybe clockwatching isn't how to measure performance. The hours I keep on a contract will rarely start before 11am, because the out-of-hours window for implementation doesn't start until 6pm. Some days I won't start until then, and be finished just as the sun is coming up. But I can still get the "Where are you?" call at 9:30 from the Manager who believes that Everybody Should Be In At Nine, Because That Is The Way Things Are. And not because a meeting is scheduled, not because anything is broken, just because there is an empty desk.

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Having seen both sides...

I've seen the good and bad on both sides. I've been in the central bit when a complacent little department discovers that actually, the £10/month we charged to back up a departmental server over the network wasn't such a bad deal after all, as they pay for me salvaging a dead NetWare file system - but I've also been out in the revenue-generating departments, chafing at paying 900% markups on domain registrations (£10 reg fee plus £90 overhead!), choking under 30 Mb quotas because the building full of giant plasma screens apparently can't afford storage any more.

If the central IT provision kept up with commercial levels of service, there would be little or no need for what the article calls "shadow" IT (and I'd prefer a less judgemental term, like 'devolved' or 'distributed' - particularly in an environment where departments generally have their own IT staff).

Give us slow and unreliable 30 megabyte home directories, with extra storage in units of 300 Gb at £5000 each, of course Dropbox gets new users instead. Blow six figures propping up a half-dead dog-slow Groupwise installation with 50 Mb quotas, of course users will end up forwarding to a Gmail account. (To be fair, that particular turkey finally got a late Christmas when we upgraded to Hotmail.) For far too long now, central IT departments have grown accustomed to delivering minimal service at stupid prices. "Shadow IT" is one way of delivering much better results; if "central IT" can't match it, maybe it's time to reconsider their existence?

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Gartner Advice?

Gartner advice from way back when sounded like this - Get with Portfolio Management. That way:

- the user community set the agenda for the IT department

- the user community made the hard choices about what NOT to fund

- the user community got to hold IT accountable for Programs and projects which were funded

The article might read better if the advice was "Propose and fund a new Program within IT for process and productivity improvements - with some hard targets set by users".

The way it actually reads is "Gartner says IT is unproductive".....not helpful!!!

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Another PHD who thinks he works for a living...

I'm an I.T. Director who still crawls around under desks and takes on-call rotation because I feel it's important to stay in touch with end users and to not ask my staff to do anything I would not do. Having said that I take it personally when some one with fancy letters after their name calls my industry lazy (which is the overall theme of this article). My company is like most in that anything that runs on electricity eventually gets sent to us for "handling". Consequently, we end up working on damn-near every little project, change or idea anyone has. I'd like to see this guy try to manage the number of things that happen in our department on any given Monday and then come back and tell me we need to work better with less. Sigh. As much as I hate to agree with anyone named Trevor, I'd say you nailed it spot on Mr. Pott.

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