Shadow IT - it may have a fairly negative-sounding name - but it’s an ever-present aspect of modern businesses and can be a benefit rather than a hindrance. Essentially, shadow IT is the use of devices or applications without the specific knowledge or approval of an IT department. It can be anything from accessing a work portal from a personal device or, in some circumstances, using custom-built apps to solve a business need.
While the use of shadow IT can very much improve the efficiencies and capabilities of those using it, it does present a significant question regarding security. How safe can these apps be if built or used without the visibility of IT departments?
How does shadow IT increase risk?
The advent of cloud-enabled technology, personal devices and a widely accessible software market has made it incredibly easy for everyday IT users within businesses to bypass standard procurement protocols.
This is usually done for good reason. It can often be the case that employees realise they need specific technology to improve their working processes or achieve something new.
Unfortunately, this means that the oversight and governance policies usually enacted by IT departments are circumvented. While IT departments are looking to protect a business’ infrastructure, everyday employees are looking to work in the most efficient manner possible. Sometimes, these two hopes aren’t aligned, leading to instances of shadow IT use.
In each instance this happens, the new technology being used may not adhere to the security standards set out by IT or the wider business in general, posing risk pertaining to:
- Compliance & regulation
- Cost efficiency
Often, shadow IT comes in the form of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), off-the-shelf applications, hardware and custom-built applications. Other common examples are commercial desktop products, such as device applications. These applications can be downloaded onto personal devices that are not governed by IT, potentially leading to prohibited or dangerous apps being used.
Why is shadow IT being used?
All of us want to make our jobs easier and applications that streamline our working processes and responsibilities do that for us. Shadow IT is a popular remedy, with a study by Everest Group finding that almost 50% of purchases within enterprise involved shadow IT spending.
With the speed required for the turnover of work, the need for innovative software to capture distinct business advantages and the desire for continuous innovation, it makes perfect sense that new tools would be onboarded with little scope, involvement or approval.
The risks of shadow IT
While shadow IT is a standard part of any enterprise business, it can present the following risks:
- Lack of visibility
- Data breaches and cyberattacks
- Data loss
- Increased risk of exposure to bad actors
- Lack of data recovery measures
So how exactly can enterprise businesses protect themselves against these risks and ensure that shadow IT is done in a positive way?
How to mitigate the risk of shadow IT
Eliminating shadow IT risks for enterprise businesses depends on two strategies. The first involves reducing the need for shadow IT solutions. The second is to create oversight over currently used shadow IT and manage those technologies.
Let’s explore these in more detail.
Decrease the need for shadow IT
The presence of shadow IT stems from inefficient business practices. An enterprise business that doesn’t offer support for employees in the form of required IT solutions will find themselves burdened with unapproved solutions.
On top of this, it might be that the governance, procurement or approval process is slow, ineffective and doesn’t truly satisfy the needs of those looking for IT solutions.
If a business can offer support and ensure that procurement and approval processes are made to adequately secure new solutions in good time, the presence of shadow IT will be decreased.
Improve the communication and collaboration between users, developers and IT teams
Poor communication between everyday users, IT departments and in-house development teams will lead to the presence of bottlenecks in IT support solutions, such as custom-built applications. This slows down the pace of software sourcing, approval, development and implementation, meaning employees could be waiting weeks, if not months, for the software they need.
The lack of communication also impacts security. If IT departments aren’t notified of shadow IT use, it makes it impossible to judge the security of the solution being used. This also directly impacts what security needs are taken into account when onboarding new technology.
At the end of the day, there needs to be an open line of communication regarding what tech is being used and what tech solutions are needed in order to make the most of the software available today.
To reduce the inevitability of non-compliant or risky shadow IT, enterprise businesses need a robust and stringent governance structure. This needs to identify, vet and implement new technologies at a quick pace, with user-centric policies that anticipate the growing needs of employees.
This governance needs to be part of the overall business strategy, but should also include the flexibility to adapt and respond to the changing needs of enterprise employees across the entire business.
Develop applications in-house
Sometimes, end-users need completely bespoke solutions that won’t be found in traditional off-the-shelf offerings. However, in-house development teams - while they will better understand the business needs than a third-party-designed solution - may be up against the clock.
Solutions need to be quickly designed and rolled out within a timeframe and within budget. So, how can this be achieved?
A potential answer lies in Low-Code development platforms. Low-Code is a visual automation tool for effectively designing and publishing enterprise-ready applications quickly and securely. It’s a way of speeding up development times by distancing developers from the time-consuming traditional coding process.
If apps are developed in-house, then security can remain a key consideration. Applications can be built in line with company policies, compliance regulations and the key requirements of the employees that will be using them. These applications can be consistently updated in-house through the use of Low-Code development platforms, meaning that if changes arise, they can be accounted for.
The use of Low-Code provides the visibility and agility needed to get shadow IT under control. At the end of the day, Low-Code transforms shadow IT into plain IT - the kind that can be relied upon.
If you’re looking for more information regarding Low-Code, we’ve got you covered.
What is Low-Code? Everything you need to know
Technical debt. Time constraints. Budgetary concerns. There are a myriad of challenges of app development, but in-house developers are the first line of defence against the risks of uncontrolled shadow IT. In today’s age of quick implementations, market volatility and the emphasis on user satisfaction, your development team needs to be leveraged correctly. This can be done through Low-Code.
In this blog we cover:
- The challenges facing app development
- The benefits of Low-Code
- How Low-Code works
- Who Low-Code is for
To find out more, click the link below.