I used to talk a lot about ‘Shadow IT’, the increasing tendency for non IT staff to use simple web-based technology to solve their own and their local business unit’s requirements without the involvement, or even knowledge, of the IT department. Back in 2006 when I first mentioned this, and wrote about it in my first book on the new world MashUp Corporation, it was considered a shocking thought. Today it seems inevitable, and the questions about the whole topic of user-driven technology have changed from how to stop it, towards how to make best use of it.
The most common question with respect to users introducing their own iPhones has become ‘what services that are corporately beneficial can we offer’, and not how do we block them from gaining mail access?! It would seem that the decentralisation of Information Technology, or the introduction of business technology, (defined as web or cloud based technologies deployed for front office support), depending on which way you think of it, is here to stay. The question is therefore how to ‘enable’ this decentralised environment in sensible ways. It’s with this in mind that I picked up on two recent announcements.

The first is from an Intel technology blog which describes their pilot to build on their Active Management Technology, AMT, the capability to manage PCs remotely using web services. You can broaden this and say any PC accessible on the Internet can be managed by this, but the reality is we should think about this as an extension of supporting a user who is working on enterprise SaaS. This deals with one of the most concerning problems about moving enterprise users to cloud-based services and breaking down the conventional structure of IT. Bingo! What a jump forward that brings in terms of being able to ensure machines and devices remain safely covered.
The second is from HP and is the road warrior’s answer to the eternal dilemma about finding a usable printer, or more particularly the challenge of drivers. HP ePrinting has the simple answer, just send the printer an email containing what needs to be printed and that’s it. I love idea, but is this leading us towards the answer to the ongoing dilemma with IPv4 address shortages being answered by email addresses? Sorry, I am joking on that one! The serious point is that, as with the Intel move, it’s another step forward towards enabling the necessary elements for decentralisation.
As the move towards decentralisation, or focusing on front office go to market flexibility as a shift from back office process centralisation, continues to gather pace along with a general acceptance of XaaS, and clouds, I think more and more of the pieces to effectively operate and manage the environment will arrive. BUT, and there is a big BUT in this, and that’s exactly the same issue that the PC caused at this stage of the adoption cycle, what about the data?
It’s not the same transactional data problem as last time; ERP has, and will continue to solve this. It’s the challenge of market data. The interest in real-time analysis is all part of making the flexibility of decentralisation, and XaaS pay off, but if every user or small user group is acquiring and analysing their own data separately then enterprise understanding of their entire market, or ability to leverage their power is lost. When discussing this with various people I have called this impact ‘Shredding the Edge’ as it’s the most graphic description of the effect that this will have. The answer; there are two. The first is readily adoptable and will build a foundation for the longer term, and I plan to discuss this in my next blog. The second is we really need a revolution in the concept of data within the organisation and its management, a point that some of my other recent posts have commented upon.