Imagine for a moment, you’re part of an early settlement, building a new nation for yourself and your compatriots. You have a vision; a dream of bustling cities with prospering industry and plentiful harvests to feed everyone.

In these early days, your nation starts as a small village by the sea with modest needs, resources come from a single port of entry, and elected leaders control supply lines to distribute them as necessary. This centralized control and infrastructure work, for a time, but your village continues to grow and evolve. New challenges are cropping up, community leaders have ambitions to expand their territory, and an industrial revolution is afoot.

The small idyllic village is quickly turning into a full blown republic with cities, institutions, and a desire for democracy that gives more power to the people..

While it’s not bound by borders, a growing organization experiences a similar evolution. The people are governed by a set of core values, policies, and executive leaders, and depend on infrastructure and vital resources to succeed. One of the most important resources is the technology that makes it all tick. And the framework used to implement and maintain that technology is known as IT Management.

IT Management ensures that technology operates efficiently and strategically helps the rest of the organization. But, as the digital transformation influences every corner of your business, is your IT Management governing framework appropriate for the bustling, multi-city nation-state? Or are you still trying to govern an empire like you would an insulated village?

The old way of IT Management relied on the CIO and other IT leaders as central ports of entry for technology. Nothing crossed company borders without IT’s stamp of approval. But today, technology doesn’t always enter through IT’s harbor. Now, it’s coming by air, land, sea, and the cloud(s), ordered by department leaders and individual employees alike.

The Paradigm Shift

IT’s stamp of approval no longer dictates the technology resources available to employees. The technology procurement process is becoming more democratized and for a lot of reasons, it’s a positive change.

“Gartner research found that 41% of employees are business technologists, creating technology or analytics capabilities for internal or external business use and reporting outside of IT departments,” said Derry N. Finkeldey, research vice-president at Gartner. “In a world where most technologists work outside the corporate IT department, literally anyone could be a technology buyer for their organization.”

Corporate IT acts as a governing body for an entire organization, but like cities, departments, have their own needs and challenges that corporate IT may be unaware of. Instead of waiting for the “okay” from the top, line of business leaders and technologists in the weeds are driving the decisions.

Now, nearly three-quarters (74%) of technology purchases are funded, at least in part, by business units outside of IT.

Even individual employees have become technologically-minded problem solvers, frequently finding tools, testing them, and adopting them on their own. It’s become especially easy to accomplish with cloud applications. Cloud software strips away the reliance on geographic location. You can sit on your couch and have the exact same access to a tool your peers are using in the office.

These shifts have allowed employees to innovate harder, better, faster, stronger, but decentralized ownership of IT assets creates new challenges.

The Conflict

The contemporary evolution of technology adoption is widening the schism between existing infrastructure, network design, and reality. There’s a strong case for giving power to the people, but there also needs to be conflict resolution for the following concerns.

Siloed data and business blind spots

Data is like its own currency in a modern organization, and it’s nearly impossible to drive business change without it. The more companies adopt cloud applications and embed technology into their networks, the more data and insights there are to act on.

Returning to our nation-state metaphor, as new townships appear within the nation’s borders, they start creating self-sustaining economies (which is good), however, if left siloed for too long, they start using different denominations of currency. These inconsistencies lead to increasingly fractured perceptions of value and limited cross-township commerce.

Unfortunately, the exact same thing can occur in your organization. As IT’s dominion over technology breaks up, so does the data that IT, departmental, and executive leaders need to evaluate the value of their technology. They have to go knocking on doors all around town just to figure out why, how, and by whom applications are being used. Even then, they may not have a full, clear view. Spend, budget, and vendor data is also fragmented, so IT teams can only confidently know their own purchase actions, and optimizing value is a challenge for all.

Shadow IT and Lapsing Security

As any nation grows, it faces outside threats that seek to undermine its progression. Some of those challenges come in the form of large opposing armies, but many threats are hidden, covert, and silent (fun fact: the first trojan horse was not malware). When individuals adopt technology outside of IT’s purview, they introduce Shadow IT to their network, and they may be blissfully unaware of the implications.

According to Torii’s 2022 SaaS Visibility and Impact Report, 69% of tech executives reported that Shadow IT is a top concern related to SaaS adoption. Why? Most organizations have no clue that Shadow IT even exists, and you can’t secure or protect something you can’t see. All the while, sensitive data flows in and out of those apps starting the moment they enter your network. If those applications are misconfigured, have weak login credentials, or even unauthorized users, your data is at risk.

Your organization may have an infantry of security measures like Identity Access Management (IAM), Single Sign-On solutions (SSO), and other methods of protecting sensitive data, but tools can only account for known (or sanctioned) applications. Those protections aren’t extended to Shadow IT.

Remapping IT Management

IT Management is at a crossroads. Its role of simply accepting, implementing, and delivering technology to the rest of the organization is a remnant of the past. The path forward depends on IT Management balancing autonomy and control.

Modern IT Management must account for today’s complex reality of decentralized technologists, dispersed app ownership, and siloed data scattered throughout the corporate kingdom.

How then, should we update our thinking?

As the nation expands, unity is dependent upon infrastructure connecting the different corners of the landscape. Ensure that people can travel and trade freely throughout the blossoming nation. IT Management’s role is to take that principle to the modern organization.

In other words, IT Management is increasingly about finding all technology, applications (including Shadow IT), owners, data, and everything within the network—and connecting them to the rest of the organization.

The Modern CIO

How does the chief information officer (CIO) fit into this new paradigm? They aren’t the flashy figurehead—the CEO—or the ones tracking GDP—the VP of Product. The CIO’s role in this blossoming nation-state is that of the builder, the facilitator, the one who gets the stuff done that others simply cannot. They are in charge of building connective and critical infrastructure essential to the free flow of data, communication, and collaboration across every sector of the company. Developing this infrastructure requires a unique combination of forward-thinking and technical expertise that few possess.

(For the American poli-sci nerds in the room, yes, CIOs and IT sound a lot like the Department of Commerce.)

4 Ways CIOs Can Empower the Modern Organization to Thrive

Corporate IT is no longer a team of tech stack gatekeepers. Instead, they should be seen as insightful conductors, orchestrating the technology of the organization so that individual departments and teams are not working in a vacuum.

As CIOs shape the future state of IT Management and new laws of the land, they’ll need to focus on:

  1. Developing protocols for Shadow IT and autonomous adoption to ensure coffers of data are secure. Instead of maligning all Shadow IT and attempting to shut it down entirely, CIOs and IT professionals should engage with the owners of those apps to assess usage, increase visibility, and build mutual trust. Check out this article for more guidance on Shadow IT protocols and governance.
  2. Creating centralized visibility alongside decentralized control of SaaS applications, so all the strengths, data, and insights are contributing to the overall organization. Ditch the spreadsheets, and instead create a curated, accessible, dynamic hub to drive company-wide optimization and collaboration. Learn more about creating an application catalog with Torii here.
  3. Implementing company-wide automation that executes repetitive, error-prone tasks so IT employees can spend more time on high-value work. With the right SaaS management tool, organizations can onboard new hires, offboard ones on their way out, discover Shadow IT, and more without lifting a finger. Read this article to learn more about why automation is critical to SaaS management
  4. Analyzing tech usage, spending, and vendor relationship data for greater collaboration with procurement groups and departmental technologists. Bridging the disconnect between data sources, departments, and people is key to wrangling SaaS spend and hidden costs. If you’re struggling with spend management, you’re not alone. This article dives into three reasons why it feels like an impossible task and the solutions that make it possible.

As the digital transformation rages on, IT leaders have a real opportunity to take a seat at the executive table, use their expertise to influence business strategy, and map out their vision for the organization’s technology.

First, you might need to do some IT detective work to optimize your sprawling landscape of applications. Check out this article on application rationalization to crack pressing tech use cases.