Aug 03 2012

5 Ways to Bring Shadow IT Out of the Dark

Help bring employees’ extracurricular IT activities into the light.

If there’s one lesson many of us learned when we were younger, it’s that sometimes it is better to ask for forgiveness than to seek permission.

In this regard, many employees in companies across the country behave a bit like children, in that they sneak around and play technology toys that they know their IT mom or dad wouldn’t approve of. Hello, DropBox.

This is called shadow IT or, alternatively, the consumerization of IT. It’s when people turn to outside vendors or services to meet their IT needs, rather than relying on their internal IT department.

As you can imagine, if employees are bringing in devices you don’t know about or exporting data to services you’re unaware of, this can put the company and the corporate network security at risk.

So what’s an IT admin to do?

Chris Curran, a principal at PwC, shared five tips to help eliminate shadow IT within the enterprise on his blog, CIO Dashboard.

1. Shine a Light on Shadow IT

The first thing to do is shine the flood lights on the pockets of Shadow IT that are not known. CIOs can review personal expense reports, analyze procurement data and conduct employee surveys to discover what technologies are being used, from where and why. Really understanding why business units and individuals are avoiding the IT department is critical. Do the research. Have the conversations.

2. Conduct a Gap Analysis

Overlay the list of Shadow IT technology onto your list of offerings. Where are the gaps? Is there crossover between your core competencies and the service offerings of outside providers that are being used? What are they using that you don’t offer? If the shadow services are similar, are governance and review processes all that’s in the way?

3. Re-Write your IT Menu

What do you want to provide in the future that you aren’t providing now, based on the needs of the business? Where are you better as an integrator and advisor rather than a service provider? What technologies enable your business to innovate that you should keep close to home? For example, it may make sense to outsource enterprise apps to the cloud to capitalize on the scale and to reduce costs. You may also decide you want to control technologies that directly interface with customers, so you decide to beef up UI and app design capabilities and mobile infrastructure.

4. Revamp Your SDLC

If CIOs don’t demonstrate that they are dedicated to picking up the pace of the deployment lifecycle, IT will remain hidden. Many CIOs need to be more aggressive in adopting agile processes, leverage more demos, prototypes and smaller teams and more effectively cultivate staff, so they have the resources department heads need. Architecture skills are a necessity as the IT department will need to design customer-facing solutions on the fly, often integrating several heterogeneous internal and 3rd party systems and interfaces.

5. Increase Facetime and Communicate

First, spend more time communicating and explaining what you can do TODAY. Some of the Shadow IT effort comes from a poor understanding of what IT can offer. As new and updated offerings are solidified and you’re capable of moving at a quicker clip, also communicate your more modern IT strategy across the enterprise. Also promote your various roles as a facilitator of 3rd party offerings – innovator, counselor and integrator.

If we learn anything from Curran’s advice, it is that the key to defeating shadow IT lies not in technology, but in communication and strategy. Which means IT workers need to be comfortable with socializing, listening and facilitating the needs of their coworkers and companies.