The development of a shadow IT department is one of the many looming threats facing technology professionals in the era of consumerized IT functionality. Organizations need to guard against Shadow IT and make sure they are ready to protect themselves against the risks it presents. Having a good IT service desk in place can go a long way toward making this happen.
What is Shadow IT?
A shadow IT situation occurs when business leaders and end users end up having too much control over application, service and even infrastructure purchases. Things can get out of hand quickly with cloud services being available in such a wide range of forms and budgets giving managers freedom to make some strategic cloud purchases on their own. On one hand, giving business teams power to buy their own technology fits in with the consumerization of IT movement, could empower workers and ensures that business units get the applications they need to get the job done.
On the other hand, giving business teams control over cloud purchasing enables non-technical employees to control where data is sent, which vendors control company data and which applications will end up interacting with the corporate network. In other words, the potential for major security, regulatory and stability risks are just as substantial as the possible gains.
In the best situations, business units are given just enough control to feel empowered and get some applications without any problems, while IT serves as a gatekeeper and strategic enabler. In a worst case scenario, you end up with a shadow IT department. This means that business units have gained so much control over technology spending and service deployment that they have essentially created an entirely distinct IT setup that features limited security controls and minimal oversight from actual technology professionals. This situation can be a fiscal and regulatory nightmare.
How do you Prevent Shadow IT?
The first step is to put a good service desk in place. An IT service desk team that supports business users responsively and drives corporate value can showcase the importance of IT oversight in an organization. Furthermore, an efficient service desk solution provides the control and features necessary to help IT teams properly manage the full stable of company technology assets, making it easier to avoid the development of a shadow IT department.
This alone may not be enough to deal with shadow IT, as plenty of purchases can still be made without essential oversight. Instead, IT also needs to be proactive about giving users a consumer-like experience that satisfies their needs when it comes to delivering solutions quickly. If an IT department is flexible enough that users come to them to solve their problems instead of subscribing to a rogue application or service, IT is winning the battle against the development of a shadow organization. Service catalogs play an integral role in this process.
Establishing a service catalog performs two critical functions - it gives IT control over which applications are available to end users, but it also gives business units the ability to pick and choose which applications they want. Establishing a service catalog enables IT teams to choose which applications and services are secure and trustworthy enough to be allowed within the enterprise environment. It also makes it easy to protect against instability. Furthermore, the catalog becomes the central hub of all purchasing, letting technology leaders keep tabs on how much is being spent and control the budget. At the same time, business teams that need a new solution only have to open the catalog, select an application that will get the job done and subscribe and their problems are solved.
Advanced service desk and service catalog solutions give IT teams the control and visibility they need to avoid the development of a shadow IT department.