Afraid of Seeing Your Shadow IT: “Sooner or later, every business has to face their own shadow – their shadow IT, that is. Over the past few years, the rise of the technology-centric business, as well as disruptions in areas such as data management, communications and connected devices, has brought IT and its consumerization to the fore. More types of business professionals than ever are engaging extensively with complex technological tools and working within areas that were long exclusively the purview of IT professionals.
Afraid of Seeing Your Shadow IT? 4 Important Things to Consider
Shadow IT – or the use of technology tools and practices without express authorization from organizational leadership – is certainly on the rise. Of course, this is not a new phenomenon – IT teams have always used their own solutions and systems to get things done, but unless a problem arises, IT and non-tech business leaders can coexist peacefully. According to CloudTweaks, it occurs in more than 75 percent of organizations, while about half of IT decision makers predict an increase in shadow IT in their operations over the next two years.
Shadow IT: A two-sided coin
It is the increasing blurring of traditional lines that is shaking up the status quo, because many of the people immersed in shadow IT are not technologists with the training and education to know how to use new technological tools without difficulty. They are bring-your-own-device users. They are marketing professionals who dive into technology.
They are enterprise leaders who make changes with a significant IT impact that are seen as business decisions first, technical decisions second. This is often a “”make a change”” or “”use a tool first, ask permission later”” mindset. The growing gray areas can be difficult to manage. Many users may not even know that what they are doing is shadow IT, and may not understand the risks.
Of course, as any seasoned IT professional can attest, there is definitely an upside to shadow IT. Innovation doesn’t happen because everyone was content to continue using the same strategies and tools. In many cases, experimentation has led to significant breakthroughs with game-changing effects for an enterprise.
Other solutions just make life a little easier on a daily basis, and it all adds up. So where some see shadow IT as fraught with issues, others see it as a potential space in which disruptive ideas can be considered and tested. However, it is important to ensure that the people involved in shadow IT both know that they are involved and know what they are doing.
Here are four key considerations that shape the way businesses should look at the effects of shadow IT – two pros and two cons, because it’s important to recognize that shadow IT is not a black and white issue. It’s a gray one.
Pro: A long overdue opportunity
Many businesses’ IT needs are dramatically different than they were even five years ago. However, aging environments do not often reflect this, and this becomes a problem. Organizations face availability issues and sluggish system performance, not to mention things like cybersecurity and compliance with IT usage policies that date back to the one-computer-per-employee age.
About half of business decision makers, while they believe that shadow IT carries risks, also believe that it gives them the opportunity to “”get what they want.”” Everything from procurement to deployment to management should be disrupted by a new way of thinking, and shadow IT may be just the area where this innovation can build and thrive, pointed out CloudTweaks contributor Daniel Price.
“The reason traditional procurement processes are dying is not the fault of IT departments per se, but because many organizations insist on using a method that is 25 years old and out of touch with the current IT landscape,” Price wrote. . “IT departments must listen to the workforce, with the goal of becoming a powerful and forward-thinking force that helps make companies more efficient, effective and profitable.”
As advocates of shadow IT suggest, if used responsibly, it can be a vital tool in the effort to make a more effective synthesis between businesses and their technology.
Met: The disconnect only grows
The “”responsible use”” part is the sticking point for many organizations. Many companies are just struggling to adapt to the growth of BYOD user bases, cloud adopters and app enthusiasts, and this can create discord. In particular, many enterprises are experiencing problems with IT departments that business leaders and staff face, wrote Information Age contributor Ben Rossi.
Many IT departments have become critical of the way users abuse company technology policies and practices, creating cybersecurity and compliance risks for doing so. Employees often respond by saying that these criticisms are overblown, while business leaders (at least from the perspective of the disgruntled IT worker) are too focused on the bottom line to recognize shadow IT’s issues.
“”Did the IT department listen to what the rest of the business was saying? Probably not, if everyone downloads their own apps,” Rossi wrote. “However, is the safety issue overemphasized? Or is the real risk that IT is worried about losing control — or even their role and status?”
Allowing dissension within the organization to continue is likely to only push shadow IT users further to the sidelines – something that doesn’t help anyone.
Pro: Provides new opportunities for departments that need them
It’s no stretch to say that technology has impacted workers in virtually every business department. In that sense, it does not make sense to limit technological use if it offers potentially profitable benefits. One example CIO.com contributor Ron Callari believes benefits shadow IT is the marketing department.
The rise of mobile devices, omni-channel commerce and the consumerization of IT have all forced marketing departments to become more technologically savvy. In this case, it makes sense to develop IT tools that can promote these initiatives – and why not design and deploy them from the perspective and strategic priorities of the users who will ultimately use them?
“Essentially, the advent of digital technologies has flipped the script on old marketing,” Callari noted. “”The transition from the pre-internet paper-based advertising space, web and mobile engagement required marketing to play an active role in technologies that effectively meet their customers’ needs.”
Putting smart tools in the hands of budding IT users can create a perfect environment for radical innovation that wouldn’t otherwise happen if everyone played it conservative.
Featuring: Cybersecurity, the ever-present risk
It is impossible to talk about the pros and cons of shadow IT without examining cyber security. There is no way around the fact that more devices, users, applications, network endpoints, etc. will lead to more potential vulnerabilities, and that employee use that flies under the radar may open up new ones. It is up to organizations to consider all their employees’ needs, both from the IT side and from other departments. Managed services, the cloud and third-party data centers can help strengthen protection and network management on the back end.
On the front end, it’s important to continue working with users so they understand the dangers of shadow IT, but without allowing too many rules to restrict employees from doing the work they need to do. It’s certainly a fine line to walk, but it’s something businesses are better off addressing sooner rather than later.”
Afraid of Seeing Your Shadow IT? 4 Important Things to Consider