“Shadow IT” is the name given to technical resources and projects used without the knowledge or approval of IT staff and management. While outside resources provide an easy answer to employees looking for new solutions, the fear is that unmanaged software could represent security and compatibility issues that the IT team is there to prevent. Technical staff is often left with the task of resolving corrupt files or removing malware. In a world of mobile devices and online storage, it can be impossible to monitor everything that is used on company networks.
The struggle to maintain control can lead to a business culture of cyber-secrecy and sneaking resources past IT staff, who are obligated to waste time removing the “threats”, ultimately eating into profits. For many organizations, a better approach is to roll with the trend and step in only when necessary. Shadow IT within certain limits can actually free up IT resources and lead to more self-sufficient teams.
See Shadow IT As A Wake-Up Call
See such activity as a means of improving communication. Are both your IT and project or department teams aware of all the risks and rewards involved? Shadow IT is less likely if teams/managers are able to make simple requests that get a fair and balanced hearing prior to any decision, rather than adhering to a basic “NO” policy. IT staff should become better listeners and become more familiar with business methods. They also should help educate employees on cybersecurity risks and processes.
Audit What’s Used
Instead of stepping in to remove and forbid whatever outside software is being used, IT should monitor the activity. Applications and hardware which actually improve productivity and achieve sound results should be considered as assets in strategic IT planning. In-house, approved versions will encourage the same processes while providing a platform that can be internally controlled.
Seek Out Consultants
Those that specialize in small business solutions can recommend products that provide cost and user benefits over big-name solutions. Many of these programs are available with a limited trial or demo versions that can be evaluated by end users for functionality and IT for a fit with company infrastructure before any decision is made.
A balance Between Security and Accessibility
While the security risk of unauthorized apps is the main concern, define what is being protected and the security risk involved vs happier and more productive team members. Look for more secure implementations such as dedicated intranet servers or isolated peer-to-peer workgroups.
Don’t Be Resistant To Change
A path of continuous business development means that future technical advancement should reflect business needs and not fixed technology policies. The latter should encourage and support the former, not limit it. While IT departments should not give up on controlling network security and software issues, especially if these are a perceived threat, neither should they sail against the wind. It’s better to understand the need behind the Shadow IT and work out a business-centric solution to provide better peace of mind for the enterprise as a whole.