Alabaster ziggurats and shadow shadow IT

by Julien Kirch, February 16, 2018

Thinking about unknown unknowns I just identified a new enterprise IT pattern.

In classical literature, dysfunctional enterprise IT has four modes of doing projects:

Business agree Business disagree

IT agree


Ivory tower

IT disagree

Shadow IT


  • Normal: normal project, should be the case for most projects.

  • Shadow IT: when the business do something the IT disagree with, canonical case is a PHP CMS which the IT wouldn’t host.

  • Ivory tower: cool-sounding technical projects done by IT without any business need, business may be forced to use it afterwards (see sunk cost fallacy).

  • Abomination: when something went terribly wrong, for example when IT and business disagreed and the conclusion is a bad settlement that doesn’t satisfy any of the two sides, avoid these if you can.

But large multinational corporations have in fact several ITs. Most of the time they have local ITs and a "central" IT, in charge of IT strategy.

In this situation, you have not four but eight cases:

Business agree

Business disagree

Local IT agree

Local IT disagree

Local IT agree

Local IT disagree

Central IT agree

Magical unicorn


Large ivory tower

Alabaster ziggurat

Central IT disagree


Shadow shadow IT

Small ivory tower

Cosmic horror

  • Magical unicorn: everybody agrees, the system ensures it never happens.

  • Gotcha: when the business and the central IT agrees on something the local IT won’t be able to handle.

  • Large ivory tower: both IT conspires to make a terrible mistake, good for resumes.

  • Alabaster ziggurat: when the central IT decide all by itself, buzzword friendly projects like hybrid clouds lives here.

  • Normal: local IT agree with local needs and they ignore central IT’s Illusions of grandeurs.

  • Shadow shadow IT: for ninjas, be sure you don’t get spotted.

  • Small ivory tower: they must fly under central IT’s radar so normally you get only small catastrophes.

  • Cosmic horror: everybody hates this project but it still happens, makes for great war stories a few years later.

Moral of this story: try to find the box you prefer and be sure to avoid the strange ones if you’re not ready for them.