Demystifying Shadow IT to Help Design Great Cloud Strategies


Huge portion of cloud applications that are accessed within modern organizations relates to unsanctioned and unauthorized use of these solutions. To be more precise, 86% of cloud solutions used at offices is unapproved, according to a survey conducted by CopherCloud, a renowned cloud security provider.

Understanding the extent of shadow IT in enterprises

Although, we can appreciate the reasons for raising the issue by none other than cloud security providers, it is also equally important to understand proliferation of stealth IT in offices and organizations.

Unapproved use IT solutions or systems within organizations relates to shadow IT and is often wrongly looked upon as an unavoidable hazard by IT departments. CIOs must find ways to steer shadow IT in such as way that it benefits the organization due to its inherent ability to act as source of creative solutions and innovations that can drive development of new applications.

It is observed that different lines of businesses and IT enterprise infrastructures are aggressively acquiring individual IT systems that may not have approval and can therefore considered as shadow IT capabilities.

These applications relate to external customer facing groups, product operations, and remarkably dynamic service areas. The non conventional channels of IT engagement are contributing aggregate and orchestrate services into consumable offerings elated to businesses.

Comparing roles and compositions of shadow IT and traditional IT

Mentioning of the term shadow IT has always lead to raised eyebrows in IT groups of organizations clearly indicating their discomfort and disapproval. Traditional IT has always perceived shadow IT as a threat to its existence.

We need to compare both these forms of IT in terms of their development. It is the fact that traditional IT has slowly evolved over a long period. It has been assuming different roles for handling important changes in business processes including implementation of ERP systems, implementing different platforms right from legacy solutions to present day capabilities, and absorbing large scale transformations as result of mergers, business expansions, and acquisitions.

These changes and transformations have resulted in intricate and confusing shapes of traditional IT facilities in different organizations. The complexities of traditional IT infrastructures can also be contributed to a plethora of technologies that have been adopted over the period of time.

In sharp contrast, the development of shadow IT owes itself to the business exigencies and therefore the shadow IT can be considered as an IT that is setup by the business and for the business. Shadow IT possesses a seamless alignment with the business requirements in terms of its affordability as well as compatibility with changing demands of organizations.

Shadow IT also enjoys accessibility to the latest technologies through use of IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS. It is much more agile and scalable than traditional IT. Shadow IT also lacks capital expenditure and can be instantly deployed and scaled to meet fluctuating demands of business.

Designing IT infrastructure to reduce dependence on shadow IT

The wide array of compelling attributes of shadow IT over traditional IT need not reduce the importance and challenge existence of traditional IT departments that have been able to address the legitimate concerns of businesses.

In order to suppress over-dependence of organizations on shadow IT, following steps need to be initiated by traditional IT groups:

  1. Achieve scalability to support and deliver solutions across organization
  2. Implement compliance with quality and regulatory aspects in terms of performance, operation, installation, and construction.
  3. Integration and extensive use of conventional platforms that cannot be replaced by as-a-service options.

Possible approaches to shadow IT

Under no circumstances should shadow IT be considered as threat to the IT infrastructure of the organization. Shadow IT can play a significant role of a bridge between IT and business for meeting challenges of changing business paradigms and requirements.

It is for the same reasons that CIOs need to take shadow IT in right stride in the light of multiple advantages that can be derived from this form of IT. There are multiple instances of cloud applications being used by departments other than IT including HR management solutions based on SaaS and so forth. Users of such solutions can be easily convinced to implement approved applications such as or AWS among others.

Then there are instances of shadow IT solutions used by IT departments. It is easier to leverage cloud services that are managed by IT departments to understand requirement cycles that could be in the range of a year in case of most of the IT departments.

The most interesting benefit of using shadow IT in IT as well as non-IT departments is that these departments have already accepted cloud computing in principle and are sold on to the amazing benefits offered by cloud systems. This offers you a leeway to promote more cloud applications in the organizations by appreciating the ‘pioneering’ role played by departments in terms of cloud adoption in the past.

Dealing with shadow IT- the right way

Existence of shadow IT in any company must be accepted in a positive way. Considering the proliferation of cloud technologies in day to day activities, one should rather be surprised if employees in any organization are not using shadow IT. Use of shadow IT implies that the organization is ready to embrace the cloud computing technology.

One can form a concrete opinion about the IT mindset of the organization by analyzing response to the presence of shadow IT in the enterprise. If the organization attempts to prevent use of shadow IT by its employees then unfortunately the enterprises is going to miss the bus.

On the contrary, if the organization devises ways for constructive engagement with the stealth IT, then it can prove to be a wonderful ground for future adoption of cutting edge cloud computing. It would be a misfortune if the organization chooses to ignore use of shadow IT by its employees.

CIOs and IT leaders need to channelize these shadow IT systems by mitigating their potential risks and exploiting their benefits for enhancing organizations capability to deal with complex challenges of business needs.

In terms of trust and economy shadow IT has lead to demystification of IT. It is influenced by clear and easy to understand operating principles by the users. Shadow IT deserves to be merged into the traditional IT environment to ensure seamless blending of business processes with IT.



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