Does your company have a known shadow IT problem? If you think you’re in the clear, think again. Most organizations have a shadow IT problem, even if they aren’t aware of what’s happening. Shadow IT is the technology that falls outside the scope of approved applications and tools. This can include creating cloud storage accounts with personal credentials and using productivity tools like task management applications that haven’t been approved by the IT security team.
For the most part, employees don’t always engage in this practice to intentionally skirt company rules. Most of the time, shadow IT is used to solve problems and increase productivity. In this sense, it’s beneficial to everyone, including your organization. However, shadow IT is a security risk.
If you want to solve your shadow IT problem, you need to solve the problems that shadow IT is being used to fix.
Here’s how to do this.
Identify what shadow IT employees use.
First, find out what applications and other tools your employees use that lack approval. This can be difficult if your staff won’t admit to anything. But the key is to approach the situation from a positive standpoint.
You could probably run an investigation and eventually figure it out, but the easiest and fastest way to get this information is by asking your teams. You could send out a letter, but it might be a better conversation to have in person. Call a meeting and let everyone know that you aren’t going to discipline anyone for what they share in the meeting. Tell them you would like to know what types of applications and other tools they’re using outside of what’s been provided/approved.
Let everyone know the purpose of the meeting is to learn where the company’s tools fall short so that a solution can be implemented to resolve the issues and make everyone’s jobs easier.
Find out why shadow IT is being used.
Once you know the tools your employees are using to complete their tasks, ask them to explain exactly how each tool makes them more productive and/or helps them. Most of the time, you’ll find that the heart of the matter is that the tools are more user-friendly than existing approved options.
For example, if your company’s cloud file storage account is difficult to access, employees might make their own free accounts with user-friendly applications and host only the files they need to access on a regular basis. If you don’t have a good task management application, your employees might be transferring their tasks to the free version of a better system. Or, you might be using a task management system when you actually need a project management suite.
Another reason employees use shadow IT is to make up for breakdowns outside of their control. For example, say you have a website developer creating a new skin for the company’s website, but their FTP account doesn’t have permission to upload images. Every day they can’t get the issue resolved is a day they fall behind on the project. In this case, that developer might create a staging area on a personal web server to complete the development process without getting behind schedule.
Consider officially approving shadow IT tools.
After discovering what your team is using and why, now, consider approving some of these shadow IT tools. After verifying that you can include it in the budget, you’ll need to create a plan with your IT security team. This way, you look into each application or tool to see if it meets your security requirements. And, if not, can you use third-party tools to meet your security requirements?
Have a plan for managing disappointment.
Prepare to deal with upset employees. They likely will be disappointed when your IT security team rejects the option of using certain applications. People become easily attached to certain tools for work. If they’ve been using those tools for a while, it’s going to be hard for them to let go.
Work with your team on solutions.
Most importantly, if your IT security team rejects using a certain tool, don’t stop until you find an approved solution. Let your team know their first choice won’t work and ask them for other ideas. Keep looking at tools until you find something that security approves. Plus, something that makes life easy for your team.
Resolving your shadow IT problem is good for business.
In the end, when you find solutions for shadow IT, your processes and workflows will be smoother, employees will be more satisfied, and productivity will increase overall.
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