Making Shadow IT Work for the Enterprise

Arthur Cole
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When it comes to shadow IT, the enterprise has three choices: It can accept it, fight it or ignore it. All too often, however, organizations choose the third option, which in most cases not only fails to satisfy individual or organizational needs but can place systems and data at risk.

Fortunately, new practices and new technologies are making it easier to accommodate shadow IT, and even use it to gain an advantage in today’s digital economy.

According to a recent report by cloud security expert Netskope, shadow IT can creep into the enterprise even when service deployment and usage policies are in place to prevent it. In its latest quarterly assessment, the company reports that half of all Box and Dropbox users maintain personal instances on these platforms along with the sanctioned presences established by their employer. This makes it extremely difficult to detect and mitigate practices like data exfiltration and file sharing between the enterprise and private instances. At the same time, the company says that upwards of 95 percent of services employed in the cloud are not enterprise-ready, with particular deficiencies when it comes to compliance with government mandates like the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation.


This problem is expected to become more acute as the enterprise delves into Big Data and IoT analytics. As InformationWeek’s Lisa Morgan notes, few organizations have the budget or the agility to implement analytics at the scale needed for modern data workloads, so business executives have no choice but to host these operations on third-party infrastructure. This ends up creating data silos that prevent analysts from gaining the broad view of information that is critical to the generation of accurate results.

Many argue that shadow IT is a net positive for the enterprise because it allows data users to define the parameters of their IT services environment based on their everyday requirements. This is a far cry from trying to explain to IT what you need so they can craft a solution for you. However, this must be balanced by the need for the enterprise to maintain a secure, cohesive data ecosystem. As LoopUp CEO Steve Flavell points out, shadow IT allows the most effective solutions to populate the workplace while the inadequate ones fall by the wayside, but IT must remain engaged in this process with the mindset that enterprise infrastructure is no longer the closed shop it once was.

Part of this transition will involve streamlining the application provisioning process itself, says SelectHub CEO Venkat Devraj. In a recent interview with IT Business Edge’s Don Tennant, Devraj highlighted the difference between a traditional procurement process and one that incorporates user self-service, auto-population of governance policies and other requirements and template-driven, collaborative workflows. By giving everyone involved a means to contribute their knowledge and creativity in their own way and at their own pace, development of new capabilities becomes less of a burden and the results are more likely to address the real-world issues confronting the end user.

The fact is, shadow IT can only remain in the shadows if IT allows it to. Providing greater autonomy to users, developers, business units and tech administrators will produce a more dynamic, flexible approach to workflow management, which is sorely needed in today’s world of data mobility, app-driven business processes and digital transformation.

Individual enterprises will no doubt craft unique solutions to shadow IT, but those that fail to address the needs of today by clinging to rigid control-based policies of digital assets will soon find themselves outclassed and out-performed by organizations that have implemented agile yet still highly secure data environments.

Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.


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