Dealing With Shadow IT In Your Business

There’s a reality that businesses of all sizes need to acknowledge. That’s the existence of Shadow IT. If you don’t know what it is, read on because it could be putting your corporate data at risk. Yet at the same time, it could be so disruptive to your sector, it could be the edge your business needs.
As you may well already know by now, the IT sector is fast-paced and the early adopters of new and often disrupting technologies are often the winners in the long-haul. That being said, they also know how to take back control of Shadow IT projects.

What is meant by Shadow IT?

Shadow IT is information technology that’s used in the background without the approval of IT or upper management. It’s either through software or a platform as-a-service; SaaS and Paas. To understand what’s happening from an IT perspective, it needs acknowledging of the BYOT (bring-your-own-device) trend.
For some employees, they know a little too much about the technology available that can help them be more productive in the workplace. Instead of going through dedicated channels within your company, which can be a lengthy process, they choose to invest their time into running specific software or using platforms that help them to be more productive in the allocated hours they have within your organisation.
Before too long, without careful control of the situation, you could have multiple departments implementing their own technology solutions without the approval or knowledge of the IT department.
It’s a bottleneck waiting to happen because when things go wrong your IT personnel are not going to be happy providing support for technology implemented without their approval. Instead, your staff will be passed over to third party providers for support and that is when projects get delayed.
IT divisions must always be in the know about any technology being used in any department. It’s easy to assign blame, however, what’s best is to ensure your IT people are aware of the Shadow IT problems and work with departments to ensure that they are always in the know about the right technology that could assist with productivity. It’s better to manage projects in-house than it is to outsource, provided you have the technical expertise on hand to provide the solutions.
If not, you’re next best solution is to use a dedicated provider to outsource your IT requirements to. Many projects and entire infrastructures can be managed through cloud applications, which can bring costs down, and even lower the periods of time you’re under contractual agreements.
What used to be five plus year contracts to outsource IT, is now closer to three years.

Should you terminate Shadow IT Projects when they’re discovered?

Probably not however it will depend on the individual situation.
One of the finest examples of a successful shadow IT project was right out of Harvard University and that was Mark Zuckerburg when he created what we now know to be Facebook.
Therefore, going by that example, you can see that it’s not necessarily a bad thing to have engaged employees working with technology to improve their efficiency in the office or even just tinker around to see what they can make reality. Just be careful you don’t have people working on projects they shouldn’t be on company time, as you could wind up with a scenario where your employees are pretty much beta testing different technology and not getting on with the work you’re paying them to get done. 
With that being said, it’s also never a good idea to let go of full control over technology. There are data protection laws and you must be providing security to your customers and clients’ data, no matter the cost.
So what do you do when you identify non-standard IT solutions in place?

Acknowledge it and discuss solutions with your IT division. They are the people there to help you manage all technological solutions either through platforms or systems developed in-house or by working with cloud partners to bring aboard the right systems for the right processes at the most cost-efficient pricing.
Involve your IT and ensure they are working with each department and aren’t oblivious to Shadow IT.
It is a good thing to embrace but only in the short term and when compliance staff and technology experts are on hand to oversee projects, ensuring things stay on track. Should third party developers have solutions available that are proving a hit for your company you can either partner with them or see if your IT people are able to develop a tailor made solution more appropriate and better placed to provide the best solution to end-users.
Should you choose to trial run any new technology, the safest way to embrace the innovation is to use dummy data. Never use your accurate data records to test run software developed in-house.

Budget for technology

The higher a budget you can assign to your IT division, the more they can work with Shadow IT projects on a small scale to find out if they are proving successful, and if so, they can work with teams to roll out longer term solutions within a budget you assign.
It’s the only way to regain complete control over the technology used in your business.

Embrace what your employees do when you’re not looking because the IT projects taking place in the shadows may be the innovative solutions that could prove disruptive to your sector and give you a leading edge over any competitor.       
Image courtesy of
The Procurement Group

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