I am sure we all have heard of information technology or IT solutions, which are typically systems designed to run at an enterprise level. These would include ERP, CRM and in some cases, maintenance or even PLM solutions. You may also have heard of operational technology or OT solutions, which are typically systems dedicated to operational functions such as PLC, SCADA, Data Historians, MES and other solutions deployed to a much smaller audience with a very specific function in mind.
I would like to introduce you to the term MY-T—my technology. MY-T has commonly been referred to as shadow IT. MY-T projects are often born from necessity. They start with individuals determined to do their jobs to the best of their ability, but who lack support from the main IT or OT solutions. Initially, MY-T projects were limited to spread sheets and small access databases. However, as technology evolves, so does shadow IT.
The Spread of MY-T
MY-T projects can be the result of Six-Sigma process improvements where the process improvement may not have been supported by the current IT or OT solutions. We charge people with the responsibility of continuous improvement. Yet in many cases, we slow down or deny the improvements if they are not part of corporate standards.
Additionally, My-T projects can result from large backlogs of IT and OT projects. When the IT/OT group finally gets around to a project, the needs may have changed. Quite likely, the process is very different from the original process. In some cases, less than 50% of the requirements are met. The longer people wait for solutions from IT/OT—and the less capable the delivery is—the more the workforce starts to lose confidence in the technology support. They start to look elsewhere.
In today’s marketplace, there is no shortage of “elsewheres” to look. For starters, many look to the preponderance of apps available on app stores through many different marketplaces. BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and the greater accessibility of smaller, very specific apps are accelerating the spread of MY-T. The entry barrier is low. The cost can be taken from operational budgets and does not have to go through typical approval processes. These purchases may even be expensed. I have even seen some employees just buying the app themselves!
More Than an IT Problem
The best case of MY-T may be short-lived and/or myopic process improvements. A typical problem of MY-T, the data becomes isolated and is no longer kept at an enterprise level. More than just limiting the benefits of a particular “fix,” My-T projects impede business intelligence and analytic information.
In many cases, the original process improvements hoped for take steps back and become version locked. Perhaps the choice of MY-T solutions wasn’t thought out thoroughly or the originator of the MY-T solution has moved on. In either case, the project becomes mired. In worst-case scenarios, MY-T projects can cause regulatory or compliance failures along with large security risks.
Fortunately, There Is a Solution
I’ve said it before: our job as software and supply chain professionals is to create value through top and bottom line improvement to the business. A component of that value creation is providing a technology environment or platform that provides the following:
- Accessibility regardless of devices or IT/OT solutions
- Configurability to allow for different business rules without going through a lengthy approval process
- Usability allowing for personalization and quick time to value
- Flexibility that supports a continuous improvement cycle
If you provide a platform that is flexible and configurable enough to meet the ever-changing needs of the digital supply chain and the digital thread—you will slow the spread of MY-T projects and be able to retire some of them.
If you provide a platform that supports the BYOD paradigm and allows access through these devices in a secure, usable way—you will slow the spread of MY-T Projects and be able to retire some of them.
However, if you provide solutions that require three-day training classes, you will increase the proliferation of MY-T projects. You must seek solutions that are so usable that training is completed within minutes and users are able to create value quickly. When you provide these kinds of solutions, you can begin to eradicate MY-T projects and retire some of them.
The Key to Casting out Shadow IT: Simplicity
To truly extinguish the growth of MY-T from your organization requires simplicity and service. If you provide a platform that takes advantage of all the great functions of your current IT and OT solutions, provides an innovation layer to fill business or process change gaps and maintains the integrity and increases the usability of these solutions—you will slow the spread of MY-T projects and be able to retire some of them.
If you have a solution that provides all of the above, not only will you stop the spread of MY-T projects—you can retire all of them, increasing the value and the reliability of information contained in your in IT and OT solutions.
The Digital Supply Chain Platform is that solution.