At this very moment, the IT department at a typical enterprise is staring at a mind-numbing list of IT project requests from employees and business units — ranging from building a custom mobile app for warehouse operations to integrating with back-end office systems. To manage this endless to-do list, the IT department logically arranges requests by how significantly they impact their bottom line, or by whichever metric matters most to the business at that specific moment. The “winners” tend to be technology projects that boost sales or improve the customer experience.

Less fortunate are more internally facing requests, such as a solution to streamline logistics. The outcome of this process is that priority requests are completed, while the majority of others languish unfulfilled or are perpetually delayed. None of this is the fault of IT departments or the various constituencies they serve. Innovation is occurring at such a rapid pace that employees and business units are no longer content to wait weeks or months for an idea to come to fruition. It is the convergence of overwhelmed IT staff and the availability of off-the-shelf applications and cloud services that is giving rise to Shadow IT — broadly defined as applications and solutions built within an organization of which the IT department is either unaware or has not officially sanctioned.

A 2015 global survey of 200 CIOs by Brocade found that 83 percent experienced some level of unauthorized provisioning of cloud services. Indeed, until recently, executives and IT departments viewed Shadow IT as an alarming development that introduces security and control issues. But what if Shadow IT could be converted from a perceived liability to an invaluable tool for rapid innovation and cost management? What if businesses could turn their employees into citizen developers empowered to see an innovative idea all the way through to a final product or process?

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