What is Shadow IT & Why Does it Matter?

June 20, 2019

Shadows conjure negative images — creepy, mysterious, even dangerous. So when you hear “shadow IT” mentioned in your business , how are you supposed to feel?

We’re diving into what shadow IT is, what causes it and, most importantly, how you should react.

What is Shadow IT?

Shadow IT is hidden IT. It’s done by employees without (or in spite of) the IT department’s direction. Although it can be bad-natured, most of the time employees do it just to get work done.

Shadow IT seems like a danger to business. And if it's not managed correctly, it could be. Take this scenario:

Your business is contracted to work with the government handling classified files. Unknown to you, employees are saving and sharing those files with unapproved tools. Hackers get access, steal the files and demand a ransom.

Now you’re on the hook and you’ve got two choices:

  1. Plead guilty to irresponsible practices
  2. Plead innocent, but look like you have no control

Either way, you’re in a bad spot. So before anything like this happens, let’s look at what causes shadow IT.

What Causes Shadow IT?

Most of the time shadow IT isn’t done with bad intent. It’s usually the only way employees think they can work. This happens because of poor management, poor training or lack of structure.

Employees do shadow IT because:

  • It’s a time saver
  • They’re using legacy infrastructure
  • It’s the way “it’s always been done”
  • Multiple offices with different practices
  • Remote employees who do things their own way

There’s often a lack of:

  • Written documentation on the right way to do things
  • Training across departments
  • IT oversight and authority
  • Managerial follow-through on directions
  • Trust in IT department
  • Right tools
  • Structured feedback loop

How does shadow IT happen?

With the explosion of cheap/free apps, employees don’t have to rely on company-approved tools. They can use what they see fit to accomplish goals. Cloud apps are especially popular for shadow IT.

Have you seen these unofficially used in your workplace?

  • Dropbox or other sharefile tools
  • BYOD (bring your own device): employees bring in home laptops, tablets and phones to use on the corporate network
  • Rogue equipment: buying an unapproved wireless router at Best Buy because employees need it now
  • Calling a friend who works in IT to help because the company’s internal IT or MSP can’t keep up
What Should You Do About Shadow IT?

There’s good news and bad news about shadow IT. What you take from this depends on your company culture and willingness to change.

Bad News

  • Shadow IT is a problem waiting to happen
  • It means your company isn’t fulfilling employee needs
  • It’s going to take effort to help employees change
  • It may require changing your IT department or vendor

Good News

  • Your employees are resourceful
  • They care enough to want to work efficiently
  • Your employees may have stumbled onto a tool that will save money and time
  • You have an opportunity to introduce a positive feedback loop between employees and management

Shadow IT happens at plenty of companies. It doesn’t mean you’re doing poorly, it means you have a perfect chance to improve.

The first step is accepting your business needs help. The second step is talking to an IT provider who can help you.

Stay tuned for our upcoming chat with IT experts on their interesting, innovative, sometimes bizarre, experiences with shadow IT.

iVenture Solutions is an award-winning managed service provider delivering superior IT solutions to clients across Florida.

As a leading-edge IT firm for small and medium-sized businesses, we provide a diverse range of services covering the entire scope of IT including maintenance, support, hosting and more.

Through rapid response time, reduction of chaos and the right people, our expert team of IT professionals will fulfill your technology needs. At iVenture, we give you more time to do what matters most.

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