Shadow IT can be a CIO’s worst nightmare, but there are ways that technology managers can use it to their advantage.

What is Shadow IT?

Shadow IT is the act of employees secretly using software and services without explicit approval from their organization. Most of the time, end users embrace shadow IT because it can help them get their job done faster and they don’t think anyone will find out. Shadow IT can cause a major headache for IT leaders, but with some foresight, can be leveraged for the greater good of an organization. If the tool is so great, shouldn’t everyone be using it?

Why Shadow IT is Discouraged

Accountability is an important part of protecting an organization. A CIO should have a repository of all licensed software being used by a company at a given time and all software should be approved. Unlicensed tools are discouraged because they can create security, compliance, legal and workflow vulnerabilities. At the end of the day, the organization is liable for any repercussions that may occur with unsecure or unlicensed software.

Is Shadow IT Really That Bad?

Circumventing leadership and utilizing tools that may do more harm than good is certainly bad for an organization. However, in most cases, when Shadow IT comes to light it can bring big benefits. If IT works with end users instead of for them, and open lines of communication are established, companies can discover a wealth of enterprise level tools that can benefit everyone.

Here’s how you should approach shadow IT within your organization:

Understand the Tools that are Being Used, Where they are Being Used & Why

Some of the most common tools used as shadow IT software are those that employees are comfortable with in their everyday life as a consumer. These could include online cloud platforms or other productivity tools.

Corporate mandates can slow down a user’s productivity, and they may want to use something like Google Docs or Dropbox to take their work home with them. The problem here is that the employee isn't utilizing a secure cloud platform to accomplish the same goal. Take this info and transition it into a strategy to help your employees perform their duties outside the office.

Figure Out if the Shadow Software Poses a Security Threat

After identifying the technology in question, start assessing if any security risks need to be mitigated. Even simple software applications like chrome extensions can contain hidden malware that an everyday employee may not be able to spot.

Figure Out if the Tool or a Similar Tool Can Be Used at the Enterprise Level

Discuss the technology with those who use it. Find out if it makes their job more efficient. There’s usually a good reason behind why someone has downloaded unapproved software. If the solution is truly valuable, work with the software vendor to determine if it can be rolled out as a licensed enterprise tool. If security is a concern with the shadow product, research a suitable replacement that you’re comfortable with.

Make Sure the Tool You Adapt Meets Employee Expectations

 You’ve listened to your end user demands and have decided to integrate a new software into your rotation. Are you employing all of the features that made the user go behind your back in the first place? Unless a new technology explicitly meets what you set out to accomplish your employees will continue to download other unapproved tools, and that’s no good.

Stand Your Ground Against Shadow IT

Always have a reason for adapting new technology organization-wide and do your research. Never cave on a questionable tool just because an employee wants it. Let your employees know that there will be repercussions to utilizing unapproved software, but always leave your door open to discussion.

Understand the Full Scope of Your Technology

Do you know what software is being used within your organization? Do you have a long-term roadmap for IT success? If not, a Managed solution from ThrottleNet may be right for you. We help small businesses get closer to their technology goals with a full suite of IT consulting services, including all-inclusive managed network plans with around-the-clock monitoring, a Virtual CIO, hardware solutions and much more. Contact us today for a free network assessment!