How Shadow IT gives CMOs more power  

26 March 2015:

I've been in and around IT for 25 years, and "IT power" has always shifted between the CIO, end users, and department leads. CIOs initiated the mainframe, department leads drove minis, PCs and the web, and end users drove mobility via the bring your own device (BYOD) movement. In recent years, the turf wars between Marketing and IT have been growing stronger than ever, mostly because of the growing concern over CMOs encroaching into areas controlled by CIOs. As businesses became more and more digital, it was easy to predict that this would happen.

It's true that businesses have always been attracted to technologies that claim to make work faster and easier, and CIOs got hired to stay on top of those and aid in technology decisions. But today, as with everything else in the corporate space, there's a growing need for technology to be more agile. When there's a need, the technology solution to meet that need has to be readily available. Businesses don't have time for drawn out processes. So when it comes to technology, marketing execs and leaders are increasingly taking matters into their own hands, sidestepping the CIO. This shouldn't come as a surprise as it has happened many times in history.

"Shadow IT" – pulling IT out of the IT group

The term "Shadow IT" is being thrown around in many discussions related to the CIO-CMO relationship. While the term has been frequently used by IT personnel to define the use of IT systems or solutions that were not devised within the walls of the IT department, Shadow IT is now being perceived as an important step in innovation. The belief that Shadow IT is opening new channels of development for businesses is bringing it to the forefront. Employees want to use devices and applications that they are comfortable with, and with many companies adopting BYOD policies, it makes sense that many of them are using programs that have not been officially approved by the CIO and IT department. Some examples I regularly hear of are file sharing applications like Dropbox or project management tools like Basecamp or Asana.

Shadow IT is heavily supported by the growing consumerization of IT, which has turned the tide for businesses by giving them the power to use the latest technology immediately, without having to pay a hefty price for it. When it's easier and more cost-effective to buy an application for a few thousand dollars and have it immediately available, many would not choose to invest in an expensive system. Yet, the CIO might often disagree as they weigh the risks of security and "clean up" against the value of fast cost savings and productivity.

The CMO, on the other hand, is thinking outside the box of CRM and ERP, and is excitedly testing new tech ideas and solutions to manage marketing's top three challenges: growing profitable revenue; connecting with customers; and tackling serious competition. Currently, a large percentage of company budgets include expenses for infrastructure and software.

Are CIOs losing light of technology for business’s sake?

A growing number of employees are not finding organization-approved IT tools particularly helpful, and it’s definitely the case when they have other applications that they are already familiar with at their disposal. Their desire to stick to what they know will work for them has resulted in the rise of Shadow IT.

Many CIOs tend to overlook employee productivity, performance, and business outcomes while trying to keep an organization's IT practices tightly bridled. In the process, they are missing the bigger picture and failing to realize that technology is not for technology’s sake, but rather it is for business’s sake.

In this case, CMOs emerge better equipped with knowledge and understanding of business returns. While CMOs have their hands dipped in some of the key strategic business operations, including customer relationships, they become one of the front-runners in driving new tech trends as they seek out programs that help their teams do their jobs more effectively.

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