How to Tackle Shadow IT

Author: This week’s blog post was written by guest blogger, Adam Ferraresi. Adam a technology enthusiast, lives in Dallas, Texas, has a successful career in web development and is trusted writer of wefollowtech.com. When Adam’s not concocting some new interesting articles, he loves researching industry topics and reading up on the latest trends that impact businesses.

Shadow IT isn’t a new event in the business world, and it’s always been lurking in one form or another in dark corners of every IT sector. The truth is that in today’s day and age, when practically anything in the world is but a few clicks away from us, shadow IT is something that most organizations and companies simply have to see as inevitable for the most part. Yet it is important for companies to set the pace and for employees to understand the IT department’s regulations. It is crucial to approach this issue prudently and open-mindedly, as shadow IT can actually be used to your business’ advantage if you play your cards right. There are a few ways you can deal with Shadow IT effectively:

For starters, let’s clarify what stands behind the ominous term Shadow IT. As you probably know, practically every business today has an IT department that more or less successfully, deals with all aspects of IT support, so that both the company, as well as its employees work in a technologically optimal environment.

In reality, many businesses don’t invest in enough resources to keep the technology in the work place as up-to-date as possible. Consequently, employees bring their own devices to the workplace so that they can access programs, apps and social media platforms that are otherwise restricted by the company. This includes storing business-sensitive or confidential data on unapproved software. While the use of these unauthorized apps and cloud solutions isn’t malicious in its core, it can prove to be a significant security threat that endangers the whole business.

More often than not, CIOs (Chief Information Officers) choose to look the other way when it comes to Shadow IT, and reasons for this may be manifold, however, Shadow IT can become a very serious issue if not taken seriously and dealt with accordingly. Here are some suggestions on what you can do.

Try To Cater to your Employees’ Needs

Think for a second of how up-to date the current technology in your office is. If it had seen better days, then you can bet that your employees will bring their mobile devices with which they are accustomed and are much faster at completing tasks. On one hand, this is excellent news for overall work efficiency, but on the other hand, it leaves gaping holes in the company’s security.

If your employees feel that they can’t get things done quickly on devices you provide for them, you can be sure that without hesitation, they will use the BYOD (bring your own device) shortcut; especially if you have employees working remotely. Your IT department should provide your employees with apps and tools that are compatible with your company’s system and will enable them to access all the sensitive company data easily and securely. This might be the least painful way to deal with Shadow IT, seeing that you kill two birds with one stone. You’re not restricting your employees in using their own devices for work (if there are restrictions, there are people that will find a way around them) and both your workers and your confidential corporate documentation are secure.

Estimate Just How Efficient Your IT Department Is

This is one of the most common problems in too many companies. Unfortunately, the IT world changes from day to day, which makes keeping strict policies and rules practically impossible. More often than not, businesses deal with outdated IT rules that simply don’t apply in a quickly changing environment, which then causes the whole technological aspect of the company to come to a halt.

The IT department is commonly seen as “the enemy” of innovation since the IT team can take their time in approving requests for new platforms and implementing them. Consequentially, once employees realize that it will take too much time to fix what may seem urgent to the individual making the request, they turn to other methods that will give them quicker results. It is paramount to figure out a system that will enable your IT team to deal with implementing processes as efficiently as possible, so that your business keeps up with all relatively new technology trends.

Keep an Eye on Your Business Network

One of the obvious, but somehow still neglected steps in keeping Shadow IT in check is monitoring your network. This is a never ending and tedious job, but it is necessary in order to find who and what exactly are the potential problems in your company.

Primarily, your IT department needs to be aware of where all the corporate data is, which in itself is no easy task, but it must be done nevertheless.

Secondly, your business network must constantly be checked for unknown devices that are connected to it, so that you can assess where potential issues may appear. By doing this, you will also gain insight into detailed information about the unapproved devices and what type of technology you’re dealing with. Ideally, this maneuver can easily be incorporated with regular vulnerability scanning, which is thus far, one of the most vital security measures to take.

Your Employees Need to Understand the Rules

Yes, this is easier said than done, but so many problems arise in the workplace because of misunderstandings or a lack of awareness. As mentioned, IT departments tend to be a bit demonized, which is why their explanation of rules and briefings about other relevant topics are considered a snooze-fest. Needless to say that interdepartmental communication is important in order for everyone to have a clear understanding of what the policies are, for the betterment of the company. Otherwise, you’ll have IT guys that are all but lost in translation, Shadow IT spreading like weeds, and employees being negligent of the company’s security.

Think Ahead

One of the best ways to deal with Shadow IT must be to think ahead. If you don’t want to be caught off guard by security threats that Shadow IT can represent, be informed about the latest technologies that your employees may find handy. This way you get to beat them to the punch and implement the technology before anyone thinks of doing it themselves, which gives you an edge in tackling Shadow IT.

Also, don’t hesitate to experiment, even though you can’t be certain what innovations can bring. Know that humans always better react to innovation than to restriction (though we often see them as one and the same), so if it doesn’t pose a threat, you can choose to tolerate IT under your conditions. Evaluate the severity of the threat of using unapproved devices or software, and balance the consequences out.

Tackling Shadow IT has become a thing of strategy, not of brute force of restriction. It will be much better for your company and your employees to find some middle ground so that even if Shadow IT exists in your company, you can use it to your advantage.

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