2007 Called… They Want Their IT Strategy Back


The other day I happened upon a white paper for a vendor (who shall remain nameless) that touted that they could address IT’s “Dropbox Problem.”

Sounds great, right?! The Dropbox Problem! That’s sure to get the CIO’s attention!

But hold on a minute. As I read on a little further I discovered the proposed solution to the Dropbox problem is for IT to standardize on this vendor’s version of Dropbox. They threw in big claims about why their solution was far superior (faster, stronger, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound) and how consumer-grade apps aren’t meant for business, and so on. But really, that’s about the time that I stopped reading and started grumbling about this blog post.

Truth of the matter… this vendor is missing the point. Let’s be honest, the “Dropbox problem” isn’t really about Dropbox. It’s about the hundreds, if not thousands of apps that people have brought into the business through the simple click of an “I accept your terms and conditions” checkbox or the latest tile on their BYOS (smartphone). People love those apps, don’t they? Heck, I search for new apps out of habit or when I’m just tired of looking at Facebook. I’ve even been known to check out apps to avoid awkward conversations with people. I might just try an app for a month just to see if they’ve cracked some code that Evernote missed (like real to-do lists… hello?!) or if it can somehow make me magically more productive. And let’s face it; most of us humans don’t really dig that far into the details about these apps. Our decision making process is often like this:

Do the demo screens look good? Have at least 10 people rated the app more than 3 stars? Do they have a free trial or can I get the freemium version until I decide if I like it?
Cool, sign me up and I’ll take the native mobile client while you’re at it!

We don’t look at the terms and conditions and we most certainly don’t dig into the security or to see if they’re SOC compliant. Seriously, we just don’t.  You might call this Shadow IT, but I just call it another day at the office. Crazy, right?!

So the Dropbox problem isn’t solved by offering a singular alternative that’s “built for business”. Seriously, that’s like IT saying “We’ve heard your requests and we’ve found a good replacement to Sharepoint.” Solving this is about solving application sprawl (the average company has 35 HR apps in use…) and helping IT have a better conversation with people and cloud app providers about what being enterprise-ready is all about. To have that conversation, IT needs facts and they need context. They need to know who’s using what apps, how they’re being used and the types of business information flowing through them. They need methods for making people (like me) part of the solution and ways to gracefully save them from themselves (I wouldn’t use half the apps I do if I knew what Netskope can tell me about them). After that, they need to look at things from a risk point of view and determine where they need to draw the line, knowing that the line might have curves and exceptions based on that risk analysis and balanced against the needs of the business. Above all, they need to be able to do all of this quickly and without feeling like there’s yet another system that requires constant care and feeding.

I know that this rant is probably a little bit harsh. After all, I’ll bet that this vendor’s solution is pretty good and that they’ve probably done some good thinking and engineering to make it everything that a business would want. But just stop asking me to standardize on your alternative. You’re killing my mood and these flashbacks to IT circa 2007 are making it hard to sleep.

- Scott brings nearly two decades of experience to Netskope as vice president of marketing. Prior to Netskope, Scott served in senior marketing roles and led executive communications teams. Before entering the field of marketing, Scott spent several years in IT and worked alongside R&D and analytical scientists to design and roll out systems that captured and secured clinical trial and intellectual property data.