The rise of shadow IT presents a huge threat for IT teams, mainly because there are so many benefits to embracing shadow IT operations despite the inherent risk. When shadow IT tactics began to emerge, much of the conversation was about regaining control and coming up with a strategy to prevent logistical and security issues that came about as a result. Recently, discussions have begun to focus on the need to embrace shadow IT because of the unavoidable way it empowers business users. These divergent ideas highlight how developing robust IT service management capabilities could prove to be vital in untangling the challenges associated with shadow IT.
The Evolving Shadow IT Conversation
Shadow IT refers to the emergence of non-technical groups within a business that utilize technology assets at such quantities that they essentially form another "shadow" IT department. As business users became more comfortable using personal devices to get daily tasks done, they started looking for their own solutions outside of the guidelines of their organizations IT department. Over time, this issue escalated to the point that organizations are now dealing with a new trend; shadow IT.
A recent Forbes report emphasized the way attitudes about shadow IT vary in significant ways. The article opened with a statement that outlined how CIOs generally look at shadow IT as a menace and goes against everything that is typically associated with creating a stable and secure technology environment. Shadow IT is, essentially, a grassroots revolution ready to strike at the very heart of traditional IT practices.
"For most IT organizations, resistance is futile," Mingay explained. "Better to embrace it and acknowledge that employee IT and digital skills in the increasingly digital workplace are an opportunity to innovate and create more value from IT and digital investments." However, Forbes followed up by stating that shadow IT may actually be the best thing that has ever happened to CIOs. In many cases, the attitude is that business applications often become so old and problematic to use that employees are quietly choosing their own apps on their smartphone and letting those solutions drive efficiency. Simon Mingay, vice president of research at Gartner, told Forbes that shadow IT may have already grown to such an extent that there is no point in resisting.
For an alternate view, Forbes pointed to Mark Yates, senior analyst for IDC, who believes that shadow IT is creating an environment akin to the Wild West. Yates claims that the potential benefits of shadow IT are something of a mirage, with the way the movement impacts IT leading to a lack of control that doesn't just create risk, but encourages the creation of operational silos.
With so many conflicting ideas emerging about shadow IT, technology leaders are left scrambling to figure out what will work for their business without necessarily having applicable use cases to look at that have shown success or failure over an extended period of time. However, there is another way to look at the issue - dealing with shadow IT is not an either/or decision. You don't have to choose solely between releasing technical anarchy or embracing tight control. You can do both, and advanced ITSM solutions are emerging to make that possible.
3 ITSM Tools That can Help you Combat Shadow IT
There are many aspects of an ITSM solution that can help you manage and control your shadow IT efforts. The overarching principle here is simple - a good IT service management team can operate quickly and responsively enough to give users a consumer-like experience while maintaining the oversight needed to protect data assets and offer proper control. Three controls that make this possible include:
1. Process Automation Tools
Many advanced ITSM modules feature process automation tools that alleviate the operational burdens facing users. A change management platform can automate change documentation, creating a built-in audit trail. With this feature in place, IT workers can make changes quickly without waiting for managerial approvals and, if something goes wrong, recall the audit trail and revert to the previous working version to avoid any significant problems. This type of process automation allows you to accelerate IT operations so users won't be stuck with clunky apps and services due to risky or time consuming configuration changes.
Automation isn't just about efficiency; it's about empowering your IT workers. Process automation tools allow your IT teams to work at the pace needed to create the consumer experience needed to meet end-user demands.
2. Service Catalogs
Cloud computing has allowed IT teams to become service brokers - a role that lets them identify cloud apps and services that offer a combination of quality and stability that users need. Shadow IT ends up rising when the corporate IT department isn't offering users the options they need. Creating a robust service catalog gives users options. If they don't like how one app workers, they can unsubscribe and choose another. Shadow IT becomes less of a problem when users turn to IT-sanctioned services when looking for new solutions.
3. Self-Service Portals
Giving users freedom to "shop" for apps that are available from the IT department will have a limited impact unless users are free to access a new solution immediately. If they have to wait for IT to deploy new app instances, they may go elsewhere. If self-service functionality is built into the service catalog, they'll have the new solution available with the click of the mouse. Similarly, users can solve their own tech problems and stay up-to-date on important policies and procedures.
Finding The Right Balance With Shadow IT
You can embrace the principles that make shadow IT advantageous for businesses without exposing yourself to risk. Advanced ITSM tools let you create the open, flexible and fast operational environment that shadow IT generates while still maintaining the control technology leaders need.