What is Shadow IT & How to Develop its Policy + Benefits & Risks

What is Shadow IT & How to Develop its Policy + Benefits & Risks
Article by DesignRush DesignRush
Last Updated: September 29, 2022

As companies everywhere are increasingly relying on their IT staff to keep them up to speed with the changing tech environment, IT specialists feel the pressure and responsibility of handling a massive set of tasks daily.

Sometimes, giving your “regular” non-IT staff control over some IT processes that affect their day-to-day tasks is also beneficial for their productivity and job satisfaction.

If you’ve ever asked yourself, “what is shadow IT” this article provides insights into developing your Shadow IT policies and discusses why you should – and shouldn’t! - do it.

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What is Shadow IT?

Shadow IT is an umbrella term for IT activities conducted without the IT department's knowledge and outside the regular IT infrastructure.

Employees do their own IT tasks numerous times, whether diagnosing problems, setting up their security settings or using their applications on or off the cloud.

Shadow IT comes with certain advantages, such as saving time and money while providing greater flexibility to the firm.

To gain these benefits of shadow information technology systems for your processes, you must implement strict controls to ensure adequate network security and the overall efficacy of the company’s IT.

How to Develop a Shadow IT Policy?

1. Agree on Levels of Risk

The first phase in developing a functioning shadow IT policy is establishing how tight the organization's approach to shadow IT will be.

Everyone's level of comfort with risks associated with Shadow IT will vary. Whatever a corporation decides, the policy must finally be universally accepted.

To do this, IT and business stakeholders should discuss risks and advantages for their company. It is vital to accommodate the needs of multiple departments while developing a well-adopted policy.

2. Create an IT Procurement Process

Creating the process for proposing and accepting shadow IT systems or initiatives is also a collaborative effort.

If shadow IT is allowed, one step in the process may be to encourage users to develop a case for why the new technology is critical for employees to thrive in their roles and why existing IT tasks do not meet their needs.

Once a new technology is approved, the IT department can work on determining the appropriate levels of access, service level agreements and maintenance requirements.

3. Educate Users

You must show your employees that you understand their motives before implementing any shadow IT policy. Opening the lines of communication between IT and the employees allows both parties to learn from one another.

Employees may be unaware of how much risk they introduce with shadow IT. When implementing the shadow IT policy, the IT department has the opportunity to explain why particular technologies may be difficult to integrate with existing enterprise systems.

Giving the workforce concrete examples of what is and is not acceptable is critical to policy implementation.

Shadow IT Benefits

Employees outside the IT department who manage their apps or projects are most frequently driven by a need to increase productivity.

  • Improved employee retention and satisfaction: Giving the end user the ability to choose which tools to utilize makes them more successful and engaged. Allowing employees to provide feedback on new software promotes adoption. In this way, shadow IT might help to retain outstanding employees.
  • Reduced IT workload: Most IT departments are already overburdened with help desk tickets. Shadow IT can relieve some of that pressure, allowing the IT department to focus on demanding projects that add more value to the business. Companies are striving to profit from the benefits of shadow IT because it is already prevalent.
  • Saved time: Rather than going through the processes or lobbying for a new tool and then waiting for IT to install it, an employee may set up an application independently and start saving time and enhancing productivity immediately.

3 Major Shadow IT Security Risks

Despite tangible benefits, shadow IT comes with some obvious risks that can damage the business.

Loss of Data and Inconsistency

You may give up some control over managing your data if you use shadow IT. This is true for both cloud-based and physically-located programs and data.

Users may make critical errors when deciding how to manage and protect company data. Data flow is closely monitored when an IT team manages the entire cloud security.

Individual employees may be accountable for reporting data on crucial issues such as IT security or productivity in the case of shadow IT. This might result in inconsistencies, making it harder to track and respond to data that would otherwise be readily available and routinely reported if an IT team was in charge.

Compliance Issues

Unexpected and abrupt developments frequently happen in the compliance landscape. Compliance issues may go neglected because shadow IT gives control to individual employees who are often busy with other tasks or simply unaware of them.

New policies governing how to conform to companywide standards and government officials' instructions can easily escape the notice of non-IT personnel preoccupied with other tasks.

Fewer Security Measures and Frequent Downtime

If something goes wrong with shadow IT processes, the amount of downtime can be quite substantial depending on the severity of the situation.

When an employee encounters a problem, it may take many hours for them to resolve it. A skilled IT professional with experience dealing with such situations can solve problems much faster.

Shadow IT frequently demands fewer security precautions. This can help simplify the organization's IT infrastructure and save time, from software development companies to web design ones.

Enterprise cybersecurity redundancies are common when many levels of security address a wide range of vulnerabilities. While these may appear excessive initially, they typically give better overall protection when adding a new layer.

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