Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Is It Time to Actually Embrace Shadow IT?

We’ve already written about how Shadow IT likely exists in your company, shared some of the advantages and disadvantages, and what your company can do moving forward. Now let’s shift our perspective to the advantages and why it just might make sense for your organization to empower your employees and maybe embrace Shadow IT.

Blissfully stated that “app usage across companies of all sizes is up around 30 percent year over year from 2018 to 2019”. The landscape is changing in the IT world and dare I might say for the better. The organizational structure will need to change from an authoritative IT department to a more collaborative IT department that works with other business units on securing apps. “The days when IT simply laid down the law are passing quickly, and IT leaders will have to embrace collaboration instead of control,” Karl Mosgofian is Vice President and Chief Information Officer at Gainsight said and I can’t agree more. For better or worse IT departments are going to have to evolve as Shadow IT becomes more prevalent than ever and figuring how to embrace the business needs that drove Shadow IT to exist in the first place. 

Shadow IT has many benefits. Your team is finding ways to be more productive and efficient with their work along with decreasing burdens for the IT team. The ability to find SaaS platforms that resolve issues versus having an internal IT team create a product can shed months off the project. Along with that, being able to be agile and move quickly makes your business more competitive. But there has to be a balance. Let’s dive into some of the ways to embrace Shadow IT while also keeping your attention on the areas that need to be monitored.

Avoiding Communication Gaps Between Data

With the amount of SaaS being used per company, there is no surprise there can be a gap in communication between these apps. Blissfully founded that “companies [are] averaging 137 [SaaS apps] in 2019 vs. 2018. The average small business uses 102 different apps, while each mid-market business uses an average of 137 apps. Enterprises have, on average, 288 different SaaS apps in usage across their businesses.” Because most departments are able to find a SaaS product that fits their needs and get it up and running without help from IT or other departments, it has started to develop data silos, resulting in gaps in data and miscommunication across the organization. For example, the procurement department may be using a different app to create a more efficient process flow while the finance team is using another. If these apps are not speaking to one another there may be a lot of duplicative tasks and efforts occurring due to the data not being shared.  

If you are willing to allow your IT department to become more collaborative with other business units it is important for your employees to feel comfortable speaking up to IT about SaaS they currently use or are looking into. IT needs to be able to be agile and efficient enough to answer the other departments in a timely manner otherwise the department may just find a way to work around IT and the issue of data silos will continue. Have team leads of your departments come together in a cross-functional meeting to determine what type of timeline and process would work best to get new SaaS applications reviewed and approved. (Make sure this process stays agile because that is the nature of Shadow IT. Quick. Efficient. Down to the point.)

Keep It Budget Friendly

Continuing with the idea of keeping a pulse on applications so that data silos don’t occur – when adding a SaaS product to your business it is important to have some type of protocol to manage all the apps. Not to only understand the security protocol needed for each app but also to keep track of apps that are being used, maybe duplicated, or no longer used. Blissfully found in their 2020 annual report “as app usage increases, so too has waste — duplicate subscriptions have increased by 80 percent, while orphaned app subscriptions are up almost 100 percent across companies of all sizes.” Think about what that can do to your budget if departments are not speaking to one another about SaaS being used. Although SaaS platform usage is increasing, application management seems to be trailing behind. It’s time for your company to create a team that will manage SaaS contracts and subscriptions to make sure your company is being efficient with the applications being bought. Don’t waste another dime on duplicate subscriptions or SaaS products that are no longer in use. 

Finding the Right Balance

It’s important to remember why Shadow IT has come about – to make teams more productive and efficient quickly. Make sure your company finds the right balance between creating a process and timeline for SaaS to be reviewed and approved or denied without taking away the agility that comes along with Shadow IT. Each industry and company will handle Shadow IT differently. If your company is in a more regulated industry your timeline to approve SaaS applications may be longer than a small tech start-up company. Following security and compliance protocols is just as important as innovation and agility. Make sure your company finds the right balance when it comes to managing Shadow IT. 

Shadow IT isn’t going anywhere any time soon and it’s important to start to understand how your company can embrace the advantages of Shadow IT and empower your employees. After all, once IT is supportive you can turn Shadow IT players into citizen developers.