For years, shadow IT has been the bane of the service desk’s existence. Security issues, compatibility issues, and control of the IT environment is threatened by shadow IT. But is it time to rethink this old rival, and perhaps learn to embrace it (to a point)? As it happens, there are some distinct benefits to shadow IT, and smart IT departments are learning to take the good while managing the bad with some savvy IT asset management.
Sometimes the Non-IT Guys Can Find Better Solutions
In this vast and ever-growing world of technology, it’s simply impossible for the IT folks to keep up with all of the software and services available. Shadow IT is a way for workers to do a lot of the research and leg work for you, and much of the time the solutions they come up with are better than any IT was using or even was aware of. Think of shadow IT as an additional team that goes out and finds solutions that help the entire organization, and free IT to focus on other aspects of the local environment, such as fixing that finicky Wi-Fi or convincing upper management that everyone really, truly does need new printers.
Shadow IT Can Reduce Costs
Usually, the solutions that shadow IT produces are low- or no-cost, and these solutions can sometimes replace software and applications that come with hefty price tags. These solutions might also be more accessible to various operating systems and devices, meaning the company is no longer pigeon holed by a single proprietor.
Shadow IT Produces Experts Across the Organization
When workers are knowledgeable enough to go out and find their own solutions, they are also smart enough to figure out how to use them. This means that you have mini IT experts all over the organization. Now workers are no longer forced to call the help desk with every minor issue they encounter, because the guy in the next cubicle can talk them through it. While this does open the door to work-arounds that IT isn’t always happy with, the time and energy not spent looking for new solutions and teaching everyone how to use them can be spent on keeping systems and networks secure.
Sometimes Other Workers Can Forge Excellent Partnerships
IT departments that have used open policies regarding self-service IT solutions often find that workers are able to forge new partnerships with the vendors they choose, and these vendors often become a strong asset to the whole company. Since each department is essentially their own little niche, the solutions they find are usually perfectly targeted to what they do every day. It would be impossible for IT to find such tailor made solutions for each department across the organization.
Where the IT Stands in Shadow IT Land
Does this mean that IT should stand back and let everyone fend for themselves? Absolutely not! IT merely changes their focus. First, IT must learn to manage the risks inherent in such open-door policies and establish good security policies. Someone needs to stay on top of the vulnerabilities of all of the software and applications running on the systems, which requires a solid asset management solution. IT also takes on the task of establishing good policies to regulate self-found solutions, and must educate other workers on what’s available and how to use it.
If shadow IT isn’t a big problem within your organization, you don’t necessarily have to recruit it. But if shadow IT is already abundant, perhaps it’s time to see the benefits and embrace what the practice does have to offer the IT department. When managed properly, it can be an asset instead of a liability.