What happens when the ‘business’ buys more technology than the IT department itself? We’re set to find out next year. James West says we should be concerned – but not surprised.

Technology procurement has reached a critical ‘tipping point’, with line-of-business and Shadow IT set to buy more than 50% of the IT used by the business.

According to figures from IDC, 50.5% of technology purchased in 2018 will come from the IT department/organisation. The remainder of buying is being carried out by departments themselves as part of the Shadow IT movement. By next year, the numbers will ‘tip’ meaning that in pure monetary value, more business tech will be purchased outside of IT than by IT itself.

This dynamic will apply to nine of the 16 industries measured by IDC, and with growth of spending outside the traditional IT buying department growing at more than 6% each year, the gap will open rapidly.

The service desk is gradually evolving away from its origins as a triage/troubleshooting function and becoming a collaborative business technology partner.  The dynamic of certain parts of IT being sourced and supported outside the IT department doesn’t threaten this, it facilitates it.

The concept of the IT department buying less IT than the rest of the business seems outlandish. Yet it is happening and it has happened in a remarkably short period. It was only a few years ago that we were talking about Bring Your Own Device.  I can remember being interviewed at SITS about the lunacy of IT departments still debating whether they should ‘allow’ the business to use their own devices.  I pointed out this was happening whether IT liked it or not, and that there were instances where IT leaders were effectively telling their bosses whether they could use their own smartphone in the workplace.

Lessons from BYOD
BYOD has proven itself to be an unstoppable force, and as the stats from IDC show, Bring Your Own IT is similarly pervasive.  Why? It’s a simple case of supply and demand. When an IT department fails to deliver what the business needs, they will bypass it.

This means that IT departments are faced with a simple choice. They either continue their stubborn and ultimately futile crusade to maintain total control over IT. Or they stop seeing this evolution of IT as a ‘threat’ and instead embrace it.

BYOD offers a great example of this. In most cases, once you stripped away the hysteria, BYOD simply entailed shoring up policies and internet access relating to mobile devices – a practice that should have been happening irrespective of where ownership of the device lay. The positive offshoot of BYOD was that rather than having to learn the intricacies of numerous mobile devices, the service desk was able to cede much of the support burden to the support manufacturers themselves. Therefore, rather than being the problem it was once billed us, BYOD actually led to a simpler IT support structure.

Embrace Bring your Own IT
Can we think about Bring Your Own IT in similar terms? We can certainly do this with cloud software because many of the tools being used in business have well-developed support options built into them. So once again, less work for the service desk. In fact, any external service or tool which reduces the influx of how-to and simple-fix incidents should be welcomed by the service desk. As these tools are embraced, service desks reduce the volume of low-value incidents they support. Which gives them the capacity to develop new initiatives which are more beneficial to the business. 

The service desk is gradually evolving away from its origins as a triage/troubleshooting function and becoming a collaborative business technology partner.  The dynamic of certain parts of IT being sourced and supported outside the IT department doesn’t threaten this, it facilitates it.

Freed from the endless influx of routine and repetitive queries, the service desk has space to really embrace this changing role. It can move out of the ‘fire-fighting’ phase and instead become an overseer of business technology. IT staff can spend time talking to the business about the tech they could employ to work faster and more intelligently, rather than fixing phone configurations. 

It’s certainly alarming to see the volume of IT activity occurring outside the IT department. But we shouldn’t be surprised because IT failed to adapt fast enough to the pace of technological change. But we shouldn’t be fearful either. The Shadow IT movement should be seen as a gift for the service desk. You’ve been trying to escaper reactive mode for years, this is your opportunity to do just that.

Author Bio:
James West

James West

Editor, SITS Insight

If you have service desk news to share or would like to become a SITS Insight blogger, please get in touch with James

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