IT leaders must shadow their business more closely to reduce Shadow IT

Communication, awareness and flexibility key to reducing Shadow IT risk

European organisations are increasingly concerned about Shadow IT, research from managed services provider Claranet has found. Despite the much reported potential for innovation that working collaboratively with employees brings, many IT leaders are struggling to be more flexible. The result is that more people are adopting the technology that they need without the involvement or authorisation of the IT department.

Surveying 900 IT decision-makers across a variety of organisations in the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, and the Benelux, Claranet found that almost one in four respondents (24 per cent) named Shadow IT as one of the biggest IT challenges that their organisation is currently facing. Only 13 per cent reported Shadow IT as a major IT challenge last year, representing a significant 11 percentage point rise.

Andy Wilton, CIO of Claranet, explains: “The role of the IT leader is changing rapidly, and the successful ones will be those who can move away from clinging to shiny objects and managing infrastructure, and think more strategically about what their businesses really need to be successful. Part of this move involves doing more to build understanding between the wider business and the IT department and it is clear that there’s work to do on that front. According to our own research, 72 per cent of IT departments don’t fully understanding the needs of the business and 74 per cent of businesses don’t properly understand what their IT department does, or how it can help. IT teams should focus their efforts on innovation and understanding how to support the core business through applications and data rather than managing infrastructure, which should be left to a trusted partner. This shift in priorities will leave the IT department with more time to concentrate on building relationships, and working collaboratively throughout the business, to build effective processes for procuring modern applications and services.

“By developing closer relationships with business units IT leaders can negate Shadow IT: either through the business unit feeling close enough to request the IT team does the procurement, or through the IT team outlining a policy by which individuals can procure on their own but in a controlled and recorded way. The benefit of the latter approach means security is less of a risk, while there is more freedom for the individual, as well as adequate provision for technical assistance. Keeping a regularly updated inventory means the IT team have a good picture of the usable IT estate in the company, allowing them to understand risk and plan strategically.

“Employees are increasingly influenced by their personal lives in terms of what technology they want to use, and, ultimately, trying to fight against the tide of this consumerisation of IT won’t work. But more importantly, there are also more valuable activities that they should be focusing on, like growing their businesses. This being said, the potential risks of Shadow IT are too great for it to be ignored, so a flexible compromise, built around solid communication, relationships and monitoring must be reached. In effect the IT team needs to let go of its grasp on all technology procurement and learn to shadow the business back,” Wilton concluded.

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