The term shadow IT may conjure up images of big scary monsters à la the hit TV show “Stranger Things,” but the truth is, it’s not as scary as some would have you believe. Sure, shadow IT describes information technology solutions and systems existing inside companies without approval. However, it offers some bold opportunities for investors and startups seeking to power next-gen business applications. So, shadow IT presents a rapidly growing market that has the power to impact digital transforming organizations worldwide.
1. Driving forces behind shadow IT tools
Employees are more tech-savvy than ever, interested in leveraging applications, software, and devices for more efficient job performance. However, most use consumer-friendly systems in their personal lives (think Snapchat and WhatsApp vs. boring Outlook), and they are interested in adding the same simplicity and ease to their workplace. As a result, they attempt to bypass corporate-mandated IT measures that impede their 24/7 productivity and slow down processes by turning to shadow IT technologies.
Corporate staff will never circumvent established teams or processes when they meet their needs. But as soon as the cost or speed falls below their expectations, they will search for success in other ways. Another reason why shadow IT adoption is gaining traction is the evaluation method for employees. In the business setting, results matter; attention is not paid to how well they adhere to standards, especially standards that stop short of failing their goals.
2. Harnessing the power of shadow IT
To keep the shadow IT in check, businesses must first understand the value users get from the technology and what issues the tools help fix. This is similar to what IT groups do while evaluating new systems, except in this case, the new system is already part of the business workflow. If you find that your team is unable to deliver the required capabilities, take the opportunity to discover more about use cases and detect solutions that fulfill the requirements of the business.
One of the biggest examples of shadow IT is the covert use of public cloud services. Company staff share files regularly, provide document access to numerous users, or back up vital files to Google Docs, Dropbox, and other services. While these platforms are easy to use and accessible, they expose sensitive data to risks. Cloud-based, enterprise-focused platforms, on the other hand, provide a lot more access and security controls, such as the option of encrypting files so only intended parties can open them. Bigger companies even implement a personal file sharing platform or utilize white-label systems that help them customize features to offer the greatest value for their organization.
3. Check whether the shadow IT causes security problems
Start by identifying the shadow IT used in the company. This is done by monitoring the network’s outbound traffic, as a large part of shadow IT normally involves IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) or software capabilities. Once you pinpoint the tools used, the business can work on a security assessment.
It is important for enterprises to evaluate shadow IT security in the same way as other kinds of services and software. Shadow IT tools do not always need unique evaluation procedures. However, careful assessment is necessary to observe and mitigate security concerns.
Unknown devices and users on the company network may result in security gaps that heighten risks. But implementing network access control offers real-time details on each individual, device, and system connecting to the organizational infrastructure. This way, shadow IT is detected. Moreover, hidden digital threats that have bypassed perimeter defenses are found through user and entity behavior analytics (UEBA) systems. These tools together are a great way to safeguard corporate assets against shadow IT.
4. Use enterprise productivity tools to assess the potential value of shadow IT
To assess the value of a shadow tool easily, discuss the tech with users. After all, employees understand how to increase the efficiency of the business and the productivity of their roles better than any sales rep, infrastructure team, vendor, or security expert. Begin treating your staff like consumers and clients, provide strong work experience, and they will no longer require a shadow to hide in.
Employees who use shadow tools will normally have a strong reason to do so. It is your responsibility to understand what made them resort to the shadow option, and what gaps exist in the company’s current capabilities. Also, it’s a good idea to question employees about new tools and make them experiment with different options. This will help you implement tools that are not too complicated for the organization.
5. Create an enterprise-level shadow IT tool in conjunction with the vendor
Once the shadow IT tool is identified, IT may decide to convert it into an authorized business tool. The organization can start by contacting the developer to talk about certain goals and requirements. A lot of software vendors have multiple versions of the same product, and they may be willing to cooperate to ensure their software meets the needs of the organization.
Over a decade ago, the majority of consumer tools entering into the business realm as shadow IT did not meet compliance and enterprise-level security standards. However, the same does apply to most shadow IT software nowadays. Sure, there are exceptions, but in most cases, the tools uphold the integrity and safety of the organization. And if any software falls short, they can either be replaced by a suitable alternative or the company might partner with the vendor to sort out the drawbacks of the solutions.
6. Careful deployment to preserve the original benefits of the shadow IT tool
Before formal adoption, IT must convert the shadow tool into a secure, fully usable state. The core use cases must be covered at all costs. Otherwise, it will only lead to more shadow IT. The quickest method of bringing a specific shadow tool securely under the corporate umbrella involves while retaining its true purpose is to speak to the provider, discuss the needs of the company, and make sure the provider meets its promises via pilot deployments and tests. At the same time, companies must understand that certain shadow IT tools will never be offered in enterprise-friendly form, which means it will be impossible to support them.
Shadow IT: It’s here, so deal with it
Shadow IT has attained critical mass. Now, more than 50 percent of enterprise application consumption takes place over unidentified and uncontrolled sources. However, all is not doom and gloom. Sure, shadow IT has its share of problems, but as long as the organization is willing to keep an open mind and rectify its shortcomings, shadow IT can be brought under the corporate umbrella.
Featured image: Pixabay