What Is Shadow IT? (And How to Avoid the Risks)

Every organization has to deal with Shadow IT in some capacity.

The pressures of delivering on high demands within tight budgets and deadlines can push employees to ignore policies. After all, when people feel as though their job is on the line, they sometimes cut corners to meet expectations.

And yet, employees often fail to understand the risk shadow IT poses for their organization, its employees, and its customers. Businesses looking to reduce the use of unapproved apps and technology need to have a plan in place to protect their business.

What Is Shadow IT?

Shadow IT happens when employees and departments go around established security protocol/approval and use their unapproved, third-party apps to complete tasks at work.

Because the IT department is responsible for security breaches, it puts them in a tricky situation of both trying to vet and approve applications for use in the business without becoming a bottleneck for employee tasks and workflows.

Shadow IT covers a range of products as well, anything from hardware to software. However, shadow IT tends to mean cloud-based apps more and more these days.

Sadly, shadow IT is often either overlooked or underestimated in the tech industry. And with more demand for apps and services from a growing number of providers, it’s becoming an epidemic throughout businesses.

In fact, it almost 2nd nature for employees and departments to simply download the apps they need. And this is a huge cause for concern.

How Common Is Shadow IT?

A 2016 Cisco survey asked enterprise customers how many public cloud services their organizations used. The average response was 91 public cloud services.

In reality, data illustrated that the number was around 1220 public cloud services! And that’s growing at a rate of around 112% each year.

Why Does Shadow IT Happen?

It’s important to note that most instances of shadow IT aren’t malicious. Rather, there’s a clear disconnect between business demands and IT’s workload.

IT departments often struggle with juggling an endless growing list of tasks from maintaining systems to building new applications. And vetting new applications to see if they comply with current company security regulations is a task in and of itself.

Christopher Frank of Forbes Digital Group describes this process: “IT organizations have guidelines [on] how new software is introduced to the environment. There is a process in place where proper testing is done in a [sandboxed] environment before it is introduced into production.”

This poses a problem that’s hard for businesses to solve. Employees can download apps and get them running within minutes. Going through the proper IT channels at a business with a backlogged IT department can take weeks or months.

As a result, the pressure to deliver results and stay competitive drives many employees to find and deploy the solutions they need on their own.

And that opens up their organization to a lot of risk.

What Are the Risks of Shadow IT?

It may seem relatively benign for employees to use apps without IT approval to do better jobs, but it creates huge problems. App sprawl can lead to wasted time and money. They may also struggle to integrate various apps, forcing users to manually enter data. As a result, they open themselves up to data entry errors.

However, the greatest concern is that Shadow IT leaves a company vulnerable to security breaches. Gartner estimates, “By 2020, one-third of successful attacks experienced by enterprises will be on data located in shadow IT resources, including shadow Internet of Things.”

Most security breaches happen because of employee negligence. And with more and more people on-boarding their own platforms without IT testing, supervision, and approval, the risk of breaches only increase.

How to Reduce Shadow IT (4 Steps)

To fix any problem, you have to look at why it happens. In a perfect world, IT departments would have plenty of resources to rapidly address requests and keep up. Except, they don’t. Requests, tickets, and maintained tasks form huge bottlenecks in IT departments. They run slow and inefficient. As a result, shadow IT happens.

With global demands on businesses continuing to rise, it’s evident that as long as companies go about processes the same way as before, shadow IT will only worsen. Thankfully, there are a few strategies organizations can take to reduce instances of shadow IT.

1. Educate Employees About the Risks of Shadow IT

Often, employees simply do not understand the risks involved with shadow IT. To them, it seems like a quick, simple fix that can help make their jobs easier. Clearly explain the problems with shadow IT. Also, you need to point out the various types of devices/services that could pose a threat clearly.

Any information you can provide your staff to help deter them from using shadow IT will help establish a baseline of policies and procedures for your company.

2. Provide a List of Approved Vendors

Having an accessible list of approved vendors makes it easier for your employees to choose potential applications from that list rather than going rogue. Any new apps that employees or departments want should be submitted to the list for approval.

3. Perform Regular Audits

Audit your company’s technical assets to find instances of shadow IT. While time-/resource-intensive, audits can help paint a better picture of where shadow IT may be occurring in your organization.

4. Use Low Code

Even with education, policies, and clear consequences in place for your staff, the temptation for shadow IT will still exist. Everyday pressures created by various organizational pressures to deliver on demands drive people to take matters into their own hands.

That's because the situations that push employees to seek out their own solutions will still exist: the pressure to increase performance using clunky, dated systems when better ones exist.

Low code allows employees to rapidly design and implement applications that streamline practices. In short, these platforms are assembly lines for software development. They make it easy to roll out automated solutions for business, increasing employee efficiency while reducing costs.

Best of all, low code provides is a transparent platform that any IT department or manager can easily supervise to ensure compliance.

Low code won’t completely remove shadow IT. But, it can further reduce it by making approved workflow solutions accessible for employees.

Best of all, by adopting low code into your business, you’re giving your employees the means to creates the specific solutions they need.

As a result, you’ll further cut down on the demands of your IT department, reducing their backlog and increasing their efficiencies.

Remain Secure and Compliant with Low Code

Integrating low code solutions into your business doesn’t have to be a challenge. With the right team, you can streamline the process and start cutting down instances of shadow IT across your organization.

Quandary Consulting Group leverages the power of Quickbase to help organizations build the necessary low code applications they need to remain competitive. We work with organizations to optimize workflows with efficient builds, so you can focus on running your business.

And with a 100% approval rate, our results speak for themselves.

Stay compliant and secure. For more information on how to minimize shadow IT in your organization using low code applications, contact us today!

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