What To Do When You’re Overshadowed By Shadow IT

Picture this: your roadmap is already buckling with too many priorities and the Finance Manager hits up your inbox with an ALL CAPS, flaming hot request. After furiously typing a response and then hitting the backspace for risk of being called to HR, you calmly explain that you won’t be able to slate the work for several months. You hit send and move on. 

Cut to six months down the road. You overhear the same Finance Manager who burned down your inbox months ago singing the praises of a new SaaS product they are now using. Say what?

Ah yes. You, my friend, are getting overshadowed by shadow IT.

What is Shadow IT?

Shadow IT is when non-IT teams and employees implement software without input or direction from IT. We’re seeing it happen more and more with the rise of SaaS products and a growing workforce of digital natives that are quick to turn to Google to solve their problems. 

What are the risks of Shadow IT? 

Shadow IT inhibits your ability to properly assess a solution for any potential security, governance, implementation or functionality issues. If and when you learn about the purchased solution, though, it then becomes your problem to reconcile and manage. Fun, yeah?

Typically, shadow IT leads to:  

  • Greater Divide Between IT and the Business: You’re frustrated that you have to manage a problem you weren’t consulted on, and business folks are frustrated they can’t get help from the IT team when they need it. It’s a never-ending cycle that’s tough to shake.
  • Accidental Architecture: As more products are purchased, your architecture becomes disheveled. Now you have several tools offering the same type of capabilities and twice as many teams split across each one. 
  • Potential Security Risks: As the number of unvetted products used internally grows, so does the risk of security threats that could impact your organization.   
  • Rising IT Costs: Without an organizational view of the IT landscape, IT costs will increase to support one-off and duplicate solutions. 

How can you resolve Shadow IT issues?

Shadow IT is frustrating, but if you put yourself in the Finance Manager’s shoes, you might also be able to understand why they did what they did. The Amazons and Apples of the world have changed the game for all of us. We can get something delivered to our door in two days. Or, find a tool we need in the App Store and download it in seconds. Technology has been democratized. 

And while it might seem frustrating, there’s something to be slightly excited about too. 

Your coworkers are understanding the benefit of technology in their work. And, if we can start to bring them along in the right ways, they’ll also realize that IT isn’t a cost center, but actually, the company’s biggest competitive advantage. 

So how do you make shadow IT less painful?  Here’s three ideas to think about:

  1. Assess the way you deliver software today. Are you able to deliver software incrementally and pivot as needed when you learn something new? How often are you deploying updates to production? Modernizing the way you deliver software drives technical performance AND organizational outcomes.
  2. Work to break down the divide between IT and the business. It might not feel like it today, but you and the business are on the same team. Finding common ground and understanding how to work together is critical in becoming a company that can compete in the digital economy. 
  3. Ensure you can clearly communicate your capabilities and lock in on the experience you offer your customers. Do you offer hosting? Can you deliver custom software or provide consultation support as teams look to bring on a SaaS solution? Being able to articulate your unique services and the expertise you offer will enable you to be the first call a business leader makes when a new need arises.