How Slack and Shadow IT Are Changing the Workplace

Oct 07, 2015
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IT have long been the guardians of corporate networks protecting organisations and their staff from themselves. The problem is security and compliance will seldom be seen as sexy or shiny and often leaves the impression of the unsung heroes being too safe or even boring.

While protecting everyone for the greater good, IT departments made the fatal mistake of failing to innovate or lead the way in this digital age dominated by technology. The rise of “Shadow IT” where business units make technology decisions behind the backs of the traditional IT department illustrates how this relationship needs to change.

A few years ago Dropbox appeared on the scene and offered users a simpler solution to storage and file sharing than they were used to. This simple cloud storage solution then spread rapidly throughout businesses leaving the tech police to deem the closing of the proverbial stable door after the horse has bolted would be ultimately pointless.

Most people will admit that our communication methods are in dire need of a revamp of sorts. In particular wading through a mountain of unwanted e-mail and filing away messages that you were needlessly copied in on into neat subfolders is drastically reducing our productivity.

We all know that 75% of e-mail messages are irrelevant to us and seem to act as one big distraction that continually pulls you away from completing a particular task. However, the general message appears to be “It is what it is” and everyone should just get on with it.

Step forward Slack that is so much more than just “group chat for employees” and valued at a cool $2.8B. Slack is currently spreading across offices around the globe at light speed and being labelled as the email killer that many of us have been patiently waiting to save us from inbox hell.

Genuine team engagement is often much harder to achieve than many realise, especially in complex projects that require strong teamwork to ensure its delivered on time. When not ruthlessly culling emails we can be found frequenting meeting rooms for hours at a time and yet wonder why the actual doing has become so darn elusive.

Slack offers users a central place to store, share and search communication, knowledge base articles work as a team to resolve issues in real time. After spending a short amount of time, communicating and sharing ideas as a team in Slack, you quickly realise how our dated our familiar Office tools and culture are.

Although, any talk of it being an e-mail killer is somewhat premature, there is no mistaking how Slack will leave IT departments with another headache with this disruptive influence on their watch when engaging and collaborating are paramount rather than security.

However, there is a strong argument that IT should not be waiting for users to find solutions to their own problems, but should be working closely with them and leading the way with options offered by technology.

Make no mistake Pandoras box has been open for awhile now and it has changed the dynamics of how we work forever. Business leaders are demanding that their IT teams offer greater flexibility to become enablers rather than blockers after growing increasingly impatient at the length of time it often takes to get things done.

IT will always be more cautious and prefer well-established solutions that both manage and protect file storage, employee or customer data. However, the success story of Slack shines like a beacon and offers a warning that they need to lead the way with innovation to bring business value or face becoming irrelevant in an age where alternative solutions are just a few clicks away.

For those of you working in IT who are blissfully unaware of Slack and its capabilities, I suspect there will be more than a few departments happily using it to increase their productivity and communication. The time has come to ditch the dreamers vs control freaks stereotypes of old and work closely together, who knows maybe Slack is a tool that could help build that bridge.

I am interested in thoughts and perspectives from in and outside of IT and how both sides can work together more effectively. Has Slack appeared in your workplace on or under the IT radar?

Let me know your thoughts by commenting below.

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