How to Successfully Grow Your Company’s Shadow IT

Mark Britton
by Mark Britton 25 February 2019

Technology moves fast – sometimes a little too fast for a company’s liking.

It isn’t that technology’s not valuable. It’s one of the greatest resources a company has when used properly. But the trick is making sure the benefits it brings don’t bring along vulnerabilities as well.

In most cases, a company’s information technology (IT) department is tasked with handling these concerns. They install, implement, monitor, troubleshoot, and in many cases repair hardware peripherals when necessary. Many IT teams also do the same for software.

But what about shadow IT? Also known as stealth IT or client IT, it refers to the hardware and software used by a business, but not necessarily managed by the company’s IT team.

While it may seem like a risky, rule-breaking, or even a relatively dangerous type of IT, the truth is it is here to stay – and it has benefits. Here’s how to understand and successfully grow your company’s shadow IT.

The Emergence and Appeal of Shadow IT

There was a time when technology was a closely guarded component of businesses. The IT team was responsible for handling nearly all of the technological implementation at their company. But times have changed, and now finding tech solutions is easier than ever before.

Here are the different types available:

  • Hardware: PCs, laptops, USB peripherals, servers, tablets, smartphones.
  • Packaged Software: Single products, subscription services, software suites.
  • Cloud Software: Software as a service (SaaS), decentralised platforms, platforms as a service (PaaS).

Anyone with an internet connection can find creative software and hardware solutions within a matter of minutes. That means counting the installation time, it is possible to have a new tool up and running for a business within an hour or so.

The appeal of this is simple – teams are pushed to be productive, and they’ll go to any length to meet their goals. IT and programme managers may find their teams are likely to turn to shadow IT for productivity even if it means incurring multiple risks.

The Dangers You Need to Look Out For

It’s not giving the full picture to talk about its appeal without discussing its dangers. One of the most obvious is that software or hardware implemented outside the scope of IT quality control measures could bring with it new vulnerabilities.

Hardware peripherals that are easier for third parties to access, software that can be tampered with without the operator’s knowledge – all these are risks that come with stealth IT. There’s also the matter of updates and changes. New technologies may encounter updates that pose compatibility issues – not with the new technologies themselves, but with others used by the organisations.

These threats show us why typical IT departments and their managers are so adamant about handling all technology needs within an organisation. When they manage software/hardware deployment, updates, and configuration, they can easily anticipate threats and work around them. But when new tech solutions are implemented outside this scope, dangers may abound.

How to Govern the Use of Shadow Technologies

If an individual, team, or department within your company has chosen to implement technologies outside the sphere of company IT processes, the first question you should be asking yourself is - Why?

Is there too much red tape associated with the IT department? Are their processes too constraining, and do they put employees in a tough spot of choosing between finding technology that works or achieving their goals?

The tricky part is understanding exactly why they would want to implement a specific new technology. Do the ones the company offers not have the ability to accomplish the same ends? Do they have shortcomings?

Consider more flexible tools like Logic Apps, which can be used to build powerful integrated solutions that streamline business processes. With Power Apps, you can even build the apps you need from already existing data within hours. This may seem like a way to ‘replace’ shadow IT, but it is more like a way to grow it without worry.

There’s nothing wrong with implementing new tech solutions at a place of business if they’re required to meet organisational goals. The goal for IT and programme managers is to make sure these new technologies are implemented safely. What better way to do this than by allowing teams to create their own?

Encouraging Efficient Software Adoption Processes

Adopting new software and hardware for a business should be a case where the company can take advantage of opportunities. To ensure these opportunities don’t get overshadowed by their associated risks, it is wise to promote a culture of smart software adoption throughout the organisation.

The benefits of using a platform for application building is that it lets IT departments and managers assess risks from the start. Any type of digital vulnerabilities or corporate/legal liability can be detected before it poses a major hazard.

Analysing usage patterns helps companies see where the demand lies and understand the appeal of certain tech products. This lets them utilise a more strategic approach to software management when it comes time to build the next tools the company needs.

Enforcing security policies is sometimes as easy (or as hard) as informing the entire organisation of the risks associated with unregulated software and hardware. Office 365 teamwork tools make it easy for entire organisations to work together across devices and departments. This is how IT professionals can ensure everyone understands the importance of growing shadow IT safely. 

Growing Shadow IT Without Fear

Even the term itself can make IT managers uneasy – but the shadow side of IT could be looked at as a source of opportunities. It is good that tech tools can be found and developed so easily. These processes simply need to be monitored and driven as to maximise opportunities while minimising risks.

We at Crimson help companies respond to technological needs and changes faster, and function as a support system to help IT pros better handle their critical tasks.

To find out more about our tools and solutions, and to find out even more about the benefits of shadow IT, sign up for our Assess2Progress workshop and our Art of the Prossible workshop.

Topics: Managed IT Services, App Development, Integration, Offshore IT, IPaaS, Microsoft 365, shadow IT, microsoft dynamics 365, CaaS, Microsoft Azure