Uniting the business and employees with shadow IT

14 June 2018

Michael Papadopoulos, chief architect, digital problem solving, Arthur D. Little

Michael Papadopoulos, chief architect, Arthur D. Little

Keeping pace with today’s rapidly evolving business landscape requires organisations to recognise that technology innovation can no longer be the preserve of a single business department. 

It can get controversial when internal users find their own systems to use for business purposes, outside of IT’s knowledge or control – a practice known as ‘shadow IT’.

IT departments complain that using shadow IT creates inconsistencies, inefficiencies and security risks, as well as adding extra costs to the business. However, end users often credit shadow IT as central to driving innovation, business transformation and increased productivity. 

Training and talking to users is the most important step in managing shadow IT effectively.

This involves helping users understand the risks, working with them to mitigate these, and inculcating a culture of trust and personal responsibility.

The IT department’s focus should shift to supporting integration between different applications, removing barriers to choice. One benefit of this approach is to ensure that all documents are still on the company’s platform, which negates the risk of employees leaving with sensitive information. 

Vendors such as Microsoft and Cisco now offer solutions such as the Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) and Elastica Audit, which collect data from all network devices, such as firewalls, in order to analyse traffic and provide a detailed picture of the cloud apps employees are using.

This allows the business to effectively manage and monitor app usage and data flows. 

By offering an internal amnesty, bringing shadow IT into the light, IT will be able to start a dialogue, inviting end users to talk about why they require particular shadow IT solutions and how existing enterprise systems are not up to the task. 

Embracing shadow IT and listening to employees’ needs can unlock large-scale savings, and the earlier IT engages with users, the sooner costs can be reduced.

While not all tools work for all users, it is still likely that some that emerge from shadow IT will become the solutions of choice for the whole business.