When addressing shadow IT, many business leaders make the mistake of treating the issue without recognizing it as a symptom of a much larger problem. If shadow IT is a rampant issue within the organization, it may be indicating something bigger about the employees’ needs that aren’t currently being met. If those issues aren’t addressed, then instances of shadow IT will continue to surface across the organization despite the policies in place.
Today, employees everywhere use a mix of corporate and non-corporate web services at. Different departments access multiple cloud services, but employees often use social media, messengers, and various SaaS-tools, because it is more convenient. In fact, as per Kaspersky’s recent global survey, it happens in 89% of large corporations and 92% of SMBs.
This practice has become even more commonplace with the rise of remote working culture because of the pandemic. After switching to remote offices, employees were challenged to get things done, and it also blurred the lines between personal and office life, so people started using company laptops sometimes to do things besides work.
Many IT leaders expected shadow IT usage to go down as cloud strategies became more sophisticated. But, the opposite happened – new waves of cloud technology-enabled new business processes, and COVID-19 further escalated the use of unauthorized cloud services with employees struggling to test new solutions and solve issues amid unique working conditions.
Shadow IT continues to be a double-edged sword for businesses. And its potential risks and rewards will only grow in scale in 2021.
Business Intelligence Agility
Some companies tried to bring down the use of shadow IT with strict policies, but this strategy isn’t really effective. There is a big reason why shadow IT unavoidably crops up in companies – it helps employees do their jobs.
The security risks of shadow IT gets particularly serious when sensitive corporate data is transferred into third-party platforms in remote working environments. Check Point Software & Dimensional Research’s survey shows 47% of security professionals believe remote workers using shadow IT solutions is a huge problem. Unfortunately, banning shadow activity on company assets completely is not the solution since businesses might move a lot slower without it.
The best way to reap the benefits of shadow IT and prevent security mishaps is to educate employees about the risks involved. Businesses can draw on existing models for employee cybersecurity education to create a framework for shadow IT use best practices.
Moreover, companies shouldn’t wait for annual employee cybersecurity training to reinforce these best practices since shadow IT and its increasing threat vectors are fluid, and risks evolve as new platforms enter the scene. They should check in quarterly to assess employees’ pain points and whether they used new cloud services to address them.
A Culture of Trust and Transparency
Besides implementing an education strategy, IT security and compliance teams should let the employees know that they are here to help. During the education initiative, companies should position IT as a trusted advisor instead of a watchdog. This may seem small, but it is a critical transition.
When the IT team is part of the conversation from the beginning, they can help employees better assess and manage new platforms. A resource is only “shadow” if IT has no knowledge of it. When the IT department is part of the selection process, this can lead to more technology agility and enhanced IT visibility and governance.
Real-Time View of Business Needs
One major advantage of visibility into shadow IT activity is that it provides IT leaders real-time views of what the employees actually need to know, to do their job.
Quite often, strategic IT plans are detached from the reality of everyday work throughout the organization. Instead of considering shadow IT as something that needs to be controlled, IT leaders must think of it as a source for insights – in a way shadow IT is how the employees indirectly convey which tools they need to move the business forward.
The employees are already utilizing shadow IT to drive agility and innovation. Therefore, to help them do so securely without doing causing damage, companies just need to train them.
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