Could shadow IT be a secret bright spot in your business?

Could shadow IT be a secret bright spot in your business?

Every business has an unseen dimension: shadow IT. Fortunately it only sounds menacing. In reality, it’s borne from the best of intentions – innovation among them.

Most IT professionals understand why shadow IT exists, but many have varying levels of tolerance for it. Some embrace it fully and bring it to light every chance they get, while others would rather see it cast into darkness for good.

To make peace with their shadow IT, organisations must understand its nuances, embracing its positives and converting its challenges into opportunities to innovate.

What is shadow IT, and why do employees use it?

Shadow IT is a catch-all term that includes any IT solution (think: applications, software, devices, etc.) that’s not expressly approved by or known to your IT team. They include personal computers, smartphones and a growing field of new cloud services.

With the switch to remote work, it’s easy to see why BYOD programmes have grown in popularity. Not only can they save companies some serious money (to the tune of $1.5 million a year), they also make it easier for employees to transition between personal and professional to-dos. All the more important when those two pieces are simultaneously playing out at home.

There are roughly 730 cloud services that usually underpin a company’s operations.

Software as a service (SaaS) applications accomplish a similar goal. From email and video conferencing to marketing and sales tasks, most teams use a variety of popular SaaS solutions every single day. What often goes undetected are the roughly 730 other cloud services that usually underpin a company’s operations.

So why keep IT in the dark? In reality, the motivation is far from malicious. On the whole, employees merely want to do the best job possible. If they feel their progress is being slowed, they’re likely to find an alternative channel. In fact, “97% said employees using their preferred technologies are more productive,” according to one survey of IT professionals.

How can shadow IT work for you?

For starters, Shadow IT can – and probably already does – uncork any productivity bottlenecks your team is experiencing. When employees don’t have to wait for IT approval, they’re more empowered to find a solution and implement it in real-time.

There is, however, such a thing as “good” and “bad” Shadow IT. Learning to distinguish between the two and take a balanced approach can give employees the innovation leeway they need to source their own solutions without putting the company at risk.

Creating a policy of transparency is a good start. The better your employees communicate with your IT department, the better that team can do their job keeping the network secure, protecting sensitive data and controlling permissions.

Kintone also reminds employers that, “When employees engage outside technologies, they’re telling company leaders that opportunities exist for greater efficiency. They also reveal that they are engaged. After all, they wouldn’t search out ways to be more productive if they didn’t want to be effective.”

Before you get spooked by your own inevitable IT shadow, remember that on the whole: the intent is good, and there are simple solutions you can employ to keep your company safe. It’s just a matter of bringing it all to light.