I was recently reading some interesting theories of Carl Jung in which he talks about ‘shadow’ personalities and it made me think of the issue of Shadow IT. According to Jung, barriers to individualisation are created when we conduct tasks that are visible to the world in line with the acceptable norms. It’s only in the shadow personality, that is hidden away, that we can discover our unrealised potential. It made me chuckle considering I had just finished writing a paper that addressed, amongst other things cloud, Shadow IT. This is, after all, a practice where people bypass the visible acceptable IT policies to use their own cloud solutions in order to facilitate their work and enhance their individual outcomes. When people take IT restrictions out of the picture, they have the freedom to access, edit, share files and service clients in ways they feel are easy and time efficient. Jung also goes on to say that the shadow of beauty is a beast, and in the world of security that is exactly what Shadow IT is – a beast that most organisations are not equipped to tame just yet.
The practice of Shadow IT is nothing new. Emailing confidential corporate documents to personal email addresses to review or edit after hours is a practice that has been going on for many years. Cloud has released us from the shackles of IT policies’ confines. What is new, however, is the acute awareness of security risks these practices expose corporate data to. Hillary Clinton has been in the news lately for this very reason. The US State Department is undertaking a huge investigation into Hillary Clinton emailing documents out to her home email address and working on non-secure computers. It could stop Clinton running for president next year. Clinton of course was just trying to work efficiently and effectively and State Department IT wasn’t meeting her needs.
The recent high profile breaches such as those of eBay, Target and let’s not forget Sony, the rise of sophisticated ransomware and the discovery of vulnerabilities such as Heartbleed have all been instrumental in forcing organisations to reshuffle their priorities to incorporate robust and strict security policies. Add the new privacy laws and availability of cheaper contract work off shore to this mix and it is easy to see why data security is no longer a ‘nice to have’for organisations.
The issue is that line of business priorities and those of IT departments are not often aligned. While employees are being asked to deliver higher quality outcomes in shorter time frames and competition is intensifying in the corporate world, there is pressure on sales and marketing to bring in revenue. On the other hand, acceptable use policies being implemented by IT departments are becoming more stringent and they are not being communicated well to the business units. Having said that, studies have revealed that IT employees are the biggest culprits when it comes to using unauthorised apps, because they think they can manage the risks better than line of business. In fact 26 per cent of IT staff use six or more unauthorised SaaS apps compared to only 7 per cent of business units using this number of apps. It’s a typical case of ‘do as I say and not as I do’, a bit like a parent-child relationship.
While the use of unauthorised apps is not based on malicious intent, it does lead to some serious security issues that can have damaging impact on an organisation’s reputation or its bottom line. A recent report has revealed that almost 16 million mobile devices were infected by malicious software globally in 2014 with cybercriminals increasingly targeting cloud for corporate espionage. Accidental data leakage can expose corporate secrets and classified documents to the outside world and, in the worst case scenario, the competitors, in just a click of the ‘send’ button. The new privacy policies introduced in 2014 hold the sender of information liable for a breach no matter what the person receiving the information does with it. This has serious implications for the practice of off-shore contracting for cost cutting purposes, because there is no guarantee how that data is being stored and handled at the other end. Playing roulette with corporate data, therefore, can result in the entire organisation being liable for a breach and not just the individual responsible.
Given that Shadow IT is here to stay and become more prevalent in an environment where corporate pressures are high and budgets are low, here are some solutions IT departments can implement that will help monitor and address Shadow IT issues rather than prohibiting this practice and pushing it underground:
1. Educate: IT should regularly communicate the risks of using public cloud to the line of business, but in a language they understand. Complicated IT terminology and policies that are difficult to understand and business units cannot relate to, will fail to create any impact. Sharing relevant examples of breaches and providing solutions that will help various departments achieve their goals while knowing how to safeguard the data will always ensure better compliance. Awareness is half the battle won and can help IT stay in step with the changing needs of business and become agile consultants for suitable solutions.
2. Enable: When existence of Shadow IT is a given, IT departments should evolve from being gatekeepers to becoming risk managers. Working with employees to find apps that will help deliver the outcomes needed while providing cloud security measures to monitor traffic within these apps will foster trust and help mitigate security risks.
3. Collaborate: Business units do not like to wait for days to get access or IT approvals for a solution they need ‘right now’. This is one of the main reasons for prevalence of Shadow IT. In large organisations where there are several business units with competing priorities, it can be challenging for IT to deal with issues on a case by case basis. IT should,therefore, consider creating champions within each business unit who can become the go-to people for any queries. These champions can represent the voice of the business to IT and vice versa while providing employees high level advice around security risks. A collaborative approach also allows IT to implement back end policies that can detect anomalies and be pro-active in taking action to prevent breaches.
I hear about disruptive technologies every day. Every technology is claiming to disrupt an existing process or way of life that will change the way we do things forever. The truth is that the term ‘disruption’, while once newsworthy creating competitive advantage for a product or service, has now merely become white noise. It is overused and over claimed. A couple of years ago I was a strong advocate of disruptive technologies actively positioning my clients’ products as disruptive if they filled any gaps in the market. The key word here is ‘if’. These days, I’d rather steer clear of that term and advise my clients to create competitive positioning using the ‘blue ocean’ strategy.
The fact is that there is a big difference between innovation and disruption. Both the concepts relate to creating something that is either currently not available, in limited supply or has not been used to create added benefits for the users. Innovative changes in processes can improve productivity but they are not necessarily disruptive.
Clay Christensen coined the term ‘disruptive innovation’ for a good reason – there is innovation and then there is disruptive innovation. According to Christensen, disruptive innovation transforms a market by introducing the concept of simplicity, accessibility, convenience and affordability to a product or service that was previously complex and difficult to use or acquire for a target segment.
Cloud is disruptive because it changes the way we work and yes, it offers the four concepts introduced by Christensen, but any technology using cloud to provide SaaS, Iaas, PaaS etc is not necessarily disruptive, it is innovative and clever. Apps can make life a lot easier but are they necessarily disruptive? I don’t think so. Apps are designed for mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones that are, indeed, disruptive. I agree that apps make life easier, are mostly simple to use, easily accessible and affordable, but so is a bus. I would not call bus a disruptive innovation, but it is a direct benefit of the taxes I pay. Certain apps that make something redundant maybe disruptive, otherwise they are just great innovations.
The key is to keep in mind that disruption gets closer to the customer in the target market and solves a problem they did not even know existed. As Henry Ford once said, “If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have told me a faster horse.” Now if we take the example of the internet, it changed our world for ever, because it allowed us to search for pretty much anything from our keyboards and all of a sudden our reach across the world in real time not only became possible but also widened. Social media has also changed the face of journalism and forced some publications to completely abolish their print publications migrating to online platforms.
While innovation improves the status quo, disruptive innovation changes the status quo. Disruption is about a complete transformation of the way people do things, not just an improvement of the existing state of play. It is the end of ‘business as usual’. By creating new markets, disruptive technologies do not play at the competitor saturation points, they create their own new and separate entry points. I really wish organisations would refrain from using the term ‘disruptive’ for every innovation. If it does not change the status quo and make something obsolete, it is not disruptive. Remember, cars made the horse obsolete.
My daughter started high school a couple of years ago. From a young girl who wore ballet outfits and loved the colour pink, she was suddenly an overly opinionated teenager who wore a lot of black and could text faster than she could talk. Dissatisfied with the sluggish performance of an old iPhone 3 that she inherited from me when I upgraded to a 4S, she politely but firmly demanded I buy her the latest iPhone, which was an iPhone 5 at the time. My daughter’s argument went something like this. Generic smartphones are first of all not smart, they are just phones. Secondly, they have limited functionality that prevents use of emoticons that are critical to any communication exchange via text or on any social media platform. In addition, the quality of the camera is critical for Instagram. Like other teenagers in this digital age, my daughter represents the next phase of consumerism. In less than three years she will be working part-time, going to uni and have her own purchasing power (that is obviously mum’s plan). Even though she does not have purchasing power now, she is nevertheless a strong influencer. There are over 4.6 million Gen Z’s in Australia, the oldest of whom may have already entered the workforce. What my daughter buys now – let me rephrase that – what I buy for her now, will shape her opinions that will be carried forward into her adult and professional life. So her focus on tools that enable her to take meaningful pictures to post on Instagram, edit these pictures to make them appealing and tell a story with a mix of words and emoticons, is not something to be taken lightly for forward thinking businesses. Gen Z’s are the most consistently connected visually engaged influencers that know no bounds. For this generation, technology is not a gift but woven into the fabric of their very existence. For this generation access to Wi-Fi and a mobile device gives them omniscience and omnipresence via multitude of social media platforms and they don’t believe in sugar coating the opinions they share on social media either. An important characteristic of Gen Z’s is that visual stimulation is critical for their engagement. A survey by Wikia titled ‘Gen Z: the limitless generation’ shows that nine out of ten or 93 per cent Gen Z’s visit YouTube at least once a week and 54 per cent visit YouTube several times per day. In Australia, Gen Z’s conduct 4.7 billion searches per day on Google and 4 billion on YouTube, making YouTube the second largest search platform. Another survey from Pew Research has revealed that in 2014 Instagram was more popular than Twitter and 53 per cent of people using Instagram were aged between 18-29 sharing in excess of 70 million photos each day. This is precisely why as we enter the age of the consumer, more than ever before, now is the time to understand what our newest customers really want and what language they understand. Businesses need to transform the customer experience by speaking a universal language that has a cross-border and cross-generational appeal. This is the time to recognise the impact of Gen Z’s digital behaviour by building visually engaging messages that evoke an emotional connection with brand names. I am not saying you need to communicate with this generation in emoticons and acronyms, like my daughter communicates with me on text messages, but this is not a generation of many words. In order to survive, businesses need to get on the visual appeal bandwagon fast to deliver an outstanding user experience. After all, this is a generation that controls the fate of the digital economy.
I have always loved writing. My mum tells me that at the age of three I would put on my backpack and, when our maid wasn’t watching, sneak out of the house looking for my mum who was a teacher at the local school. For me, going to school was all about writing in my little notebook with my pencil. Needless to say, my mum got so concerned with me walking out of the house that she enrolled me in school at the age of three and I started kindergarten.
I spent many years perfecting my writing style, from mastering the art of running writing to writing with a pen to working out if I prefered ink pens or biros. I was finally comfortable with a medium point biro when my mum dragged me off to secretarial school to keep her compamy while she learnt touch typing. Well, actually she went one step further and enrolled me in the secretarial school in my year 10 break. I found myself learning to type on a typewriter on which I had to slam the keys down to get a word on a page. It was a bit like a finger gym. Six weeks later, I was pretty good at slamming keys down without looking at the type writer and I felt really accomplished.
When I got to uni a couple of years later, I knew there was no way I could carry my typewriter around, even though my mum had invested in a ‘state-of-the-art’ electronic typewriter. I still enjoyed writing though. Taking down lecture notes almost word by word gave me a sense of satisfaction. However, when I started my post-graduate degree, we were asked to submit everything in typed format ….on a computer! I knew computers had keyboards similar to an electronic type writer, but they needed to be connected to a printer and I needed something called a 5 1/2 inch floppy to save my work on.
It was all getting too complicated now. But I had no choice. So enlisting the services of my tech savvy sister who was studying computer science, I learned how to use Word, Excel and Powerpoint and more importantly, how to save files (after losing two completed assignments because I turned the computer off without saving them on the day they were due; just a small technicality my sister thought I would know).
That was the beginning of the end of my companionship with paper and pen, but not with writing. I slowly moved away from typewriters and my desktop became my best friend. I could access the world from my desktop and I could access data instantly that I previously spent hours in the library searching for. Instead of me going to hunt for information, the information effortlessly came to me. I was connected by some mysterious means to an unlimited amount of information.
From the paper to the desktop to the laptop and now to a tablet, I sometimes wonder how I wrote as much as I did at uni taking endless lecture notes. I still love writing, but my pen is my iPad keyboard cover, not even a laptop, and my paper is my screen. I don’t hear this new paper rustle, it does not tear either, and I can’t scrunch it up and throw it in the bin. I do sometimes miss those functionalities and user experience of paper, but to be honest, my iPad screen has added functionalities that I cannot do without any more. I can even share this paper on multiple screens using the cloud.
I still slam the keyboard though…old habits die hard.