Lurking in the Shadows: A Case for Embracing Shadow IT

In Technology by Daniel NewmanLeave a Comment

IT departments increasingly face challenges because of the rapid pace of technological advancement. As companies realize the need to maintain pace with mobile devices and cost-effective cloud solutions, they have also started to realize the need for better IT control.

Controlling every access point and non-sanctioned application presents difficulties for the average modern firm. When all connectivity was hardware and software-based, IT teams could monitor all potential security threats along with how the applications and devices were used. Today, with the adoption of a less security stringent BYOD workplace culture, people use their own devices—some use more than one—to access dashboards, input information into CRM systems, collaborate on sensitive company documents, or complete orders. Shadow IT, the term for unsanctioned access and application use for business tasks, is forcing companies to decide whether to crack down on secure device usage or to adapt to the changing world.

The Risk and Reward in Shadow IT

Technology executives and IT departments often dread addressing the problem of shadow IT. While they can lock down legacy applications for use on a certain device or network, this often hinders employees from completing their work. They also face the issue of compliance. An employee who can get the job done twice as fast using a non-work sanctioned web browser or personal application may choose to complete the task in an application of choice, before then importing or copying the data into a legacy system.

While some of these applications may represent an increased security risk, many of them actually represent a reasonable, cost-effective alternative. Knowing the real potential for alternative solutions in a department or at an enterprise level can help companies optimize their internal processes more easily.

Companies can choose to stymie their employees’ attempts to use technology, but doing so could slow down productivity and innovation, not to mention have an impact on employee morale. As technology circles start to heavily discuss both the power and vulnerability shadow IT brings to an organization, many companies looking to manage risk while also allowing for increased efficiency and productivity will ultimately embrace a balanced form of the practice.

Companies Can Find Balance with Shadow IT

Recognizing the risks and controlling them is more effective than A) ignoring the problem or B) clamping down on flexibility with legacy enterprise solutions. The business world is changing, and companies that value collaboration and knowledge sharing will remain competitive in the increasingly globalized marketplace. As silos break down, and departments and teams start to work together more synergistically, the IT department may ultimately play more of a consultative role, as well as a resource management role.

Instead of operating from a place of technological control, IT teams and management should actively encourage dialogue about technology. They need to know which tools employees find valuable so the entire enterprise can move forward with increased efficiency. This will help them redirect users to safer alternatives as needed—if the IT department doesn’t know about a threat, it can’t address it.

Adopting a compromise regarding shadow IT goes beyond innovation, productivity, and risk management. A more open and accessible IT strategy also increases employee satisfaction. Employees appreciate having the freedom to use the tools they need.

2016: A Year for an Increased Rate of Change

You can clearly see that the digital world advances more and more rapidly as each year passes, and I believe organizations that fail to adopt a culture of change will fall behind. In as few as three years, Gartner’s technological research predictions indicate that as many as 35 percent of IT investments will happen outside of the IT department budget. Instead, empowered employees will build their own applications, or use consumer level tools they find helpful with the blessing and support of the IT department.

Find out what your employees are really using to complete their work. Are they satisfied with legacy solutions, or have they found a better way? Use that information to create a competitive digital strategy while minimizing the risk some non-sanctioned tools pose.

While your company may have to relinquish a small amount of control to create room for Shadow IT, managing the risk and embracing the possibilities may prove more lucrative than a traditional IT approach.

This post was brought to you by IBM Global Technology Services. For more content like this, visit Point B and Beyond 

Additional Resources on this Topic:

CIOs Wrestling With Shadow IT: Cloud Maturity Assessments are Key
Struggling with Shadow IT? Maybe Re-evaluate the IT Department
Why Shutting Down Shadow IT Stifles Innovation

photo credit: Source code security plugin via photopin (license)

Daniel Newman is the Principal Analyst of Futurum Research and the CEO of Broadsuite Media Group. Living his life at the intersection of people and technology, Daniel works with the world’s largest technology brands exploring Digital Transformation and how it is influencing the enterprise. From Big Data to IoT to Cloud Computing, Newman makes the connections between business, people and tech that are required for companies to benefit most from their technology projects, which leads to his ideas regularly being cited in CIO.Com, CIO Review and hundreds of other sites across the world. A 5x Best Selling Author including his most recent “Building Dragons: Digital Transformation in the Experience Economy,” Daniel is also a Forbes, Entrepreneur and Huffington Post Contributor. MBA and Graduate Adjunct Professor, Daniel Newman is a Chicago Native and his speaking takes him around the world each year as he shares his vision of the role technology will play in our future.