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How businesses can use shadow IT to achieve digital transformation

Harry Allan
|Aug 12|magazine9 min read

Organisations that learn from shadow IT, rather than trying to suppress it, are more likely to succeed in today’s disruptive environment, according to cloud computing company Fronde.

Organisations that are not openly disruptive can experience covert disruption in the form of shadow IT, which is when IT systems and solutions are built and used inside an organisation without explicit organisational approval.

A recent Gartner report suggested shadow IT regularly surpasses 30 per cent of a company’s IT spend. The rise of shadow IT has been fuelled by a combination of the growth of BYOD and an increasing millennial workforce, creating demand for easy, on-the-go IT solutions that deliver immediate results.

James Valentine, CTO, Fronde, said, “Shadow IT is another form of digital transformation by stealth. If employees are implementing technology without the IT team’s involvement, or if the IT team is viewed as a roadblock to innovation, it risks being disintermediated by its own organisation.

“IT professionals can react in a variety of ways. From what we’ve seen, those that surrender to the business are trying to deal with the aftermath of new and unsanctioned business applications. This can include integration issues and security risks that create many hours of work to remediate.

“Those that deny the issue and hold the line with process and policy are being bypassed in important IT decisions. Some, however, have pushed through the necessary changes and have built an enviable digital platform, influenced by the shadow IT and underpinned by modern tools, processes, and capabilities.”

Teams that use the learnings of shadow IT to build a customised digital platform for their business can be more successful than their counterparts. This is because the shadow IT mindset encourages IT professionals to be more agile and responsive to the business and customer’s needs. Integrating the skills of staff across the business can also reduce the burden on the IT team. The extra assistance and innovative perspectives can help the business achieve faster turnaround times than if external contractors are involved, and enables faster go-to-market strategies.  

Valentine said, “Organisations shouldn’t surrender to or ignore shadow IT; rather, they should leverage it to bring new solutions forward. IT teams should be the best-equipped in a business to help with technology transformation.

“By starting small and growing a modern, agile DevOps practice you can bring your team and the business along on a successful IT transformation journey. This mentality can help you find the best solutions and bring the best technology and platforms to your business to enhance daily operations and productivity.”

Fronde recommended businesses also mitigate risk by updating their acceptable usage policies, incorporating trends such as home working and BYOD. Businesses should encourage employees to adopt and get the most out of the business tools of choice in a secure and productive manner. This lets the organisation think innovatively and simultaneously manage security risks.

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