Shadow IT refers to the use of technology and systems within an organisation that are not sanctioned or managed by the IT department. From free services, to paid for cloud services that can regularly be active by a company credit card, shadow IT is on the rise. This practice has become increasingly prevalent in recent years, as employees and departments seek to find more efficient ways of working and solving problems.

Why is Shadow IT growing?

  • The move to the cloud – Has made it much easier for anyone with budget to acquire and launch services and systems without the need to set them up or host them.
  • Citizen developer platforms – With systems like the Power Platform being easy to pick up and build digital solutions with, again without the need for specialist skills, means these solutions can start to appear across the organisation.
  • IT approach – Old school IT departments with legacy on-premise solutions and limited budgets can lead to frustration from business areas and ultimately lead to less control

Shadow IT shows a problem solving and innovative approach from your business areas. IT identifies people that are looking to effect positive change in your organisation but might not have the perfect skillset to do carry it out. This is where you risk bad governance, data security and being out of step with the wider IT strategy.

  1. Embrace change: The first step in turning shadow IT from a threat to an asset is to embrace change. Rather than viewing shadow IT as a challenge, organisations need to view it as an opportunity to improve their technology and processes. This requires a change in mindset, as well as a willingness to listen to the needs of employees and departments.
  2. Encourage collaboration: Shadow IT can often be seen as a sign of a lack of collaboration between different departments within an organisation. To turn it into an asset, organisations need to encourage collaboration and open communication between their IT department and other departments. This will help to ensure that everyone is working towards a common goal, and that the needs of each department are being considered.
  3. Foster a culture of innovation: One of the key benefits of shadow IT is that it allows employees to be more creative and innovative in their work. Organisations can turn this into an asset by fostering a culture of innovation, where employees feel encouraged to try new things and find new solutions to problems. IT shouldn’t be pushing digital solutions on departments but working with those departments to shape the tools they need to succeed.
  4. Implement proper governance measures: While shadow IT can offer many benefits, it also poses several security risks. To turn it into an asset, organisations need to implement proper security measures, such as access controls, data encryption, and regular backups.
  5. Centralise key solutions: Once a shadow IT approach has become widely adopted, it is important that IT become involved to properly manage and secure these. With anything that is business critical or widely used it is important that thought is gone into the security, licensing, maintenance and governance of these systems. An easy approach is to take ownership of this jointly with the business.

In conclusion, shadow IT can be a major challenge for organisations, but it can also be turned into an asset with the right approach. Understanding the risks shadow IT creates and why it occurs is key to creating a plan to benefit from it. Having innovative problem solvers in your organisation is a great thing and with the right guidance and support this can become a huge asset for your organisation.