How Tech Savvy Leaders Are Managing Shadow IT Risks

A business that makes nothing more than money is a poor business.

Fact 1:  Employees are going to find the quickest way to get their work done.

Fact 2:  When employees don’t have the tools they need to get their work done, they’ll find their own solution.

Fact 3:  Employees don’t think twice about doing a quick internet search and downloading whatever seems to solve their immediate problem.

Fact 4:  When employees don’t find their own solution, they’ll look to their IT support folks to deliver it to them.

Fact 5:  IT support doesn’t always have the expertise (or interest) to evaluate tools effectively and solve the right problem. That's not what IT support folks do.

Fact 6:  When employees download apps and tools that haven’t been approved by IT, it’s called shadow IT.

Fact 7:  Shadow IT exposes your company to data loss, security breaches, and needless tech clutter.

Fact 8:  Shadow IT – when put to use wisely – can uncover positive possibilities company leaders aren’t expecting.

The fact list goes on.

Why Care About Techy-Sounding Shadow IT?

We can all agree that Fact 8 is more comfortable – and interesting -- to talk about than the others, right? 

We know that we do focus a lot of attention on the risks and negatives associated with shadow IT. That's because you deserve to be aware of them. They have a significant impact on your company's health.

But when you start with the Fact 8 instead, you go a long way toward resolving the other, more negative, facts.

How do you know if shadow IT is happening in your company? If you have employees, then shadow IT is probably alive and well.  

Fact 9:  With rare exception, employees aren’t intentionally doing anything wrong. They’re not trying to harm your company. They simply want to do their best work and get on with their day.

How Do You Discover Your Hidden Opportunities in Tech Creep?

Here’s a quick overview of a practical shadow IT discovery roadmap you can implement for your company. To keep the words simple, we’ll use the generic “apps” to include apps, applications, software, and tools.

  • Discover all the apps installed on employees’ devices. This is more complicated than simply asking your employees what apps they’re using.

    Most of us would have to scroll through all of our installed apps to even remember everything we've installed. The thorough, productive way to build your list is with – yes, you guessed it – an app.

    We’ll explain how that works in a minute.
  • Share with your employees what you’re doing and why. Reassure them that this isn’t some punitive, heavy-handed exercise. Quite the opposite. You want to learn what they need to do their best work.

    Who doesn’t appreciate a company leader who is asking questions and listening?
  • Organize the installed apps list into company approved and unapproved apps.
  • For each app – both approved and unapproved – ask your users how they use these apps. The questions on the1-Page Technology Decision Guide and the Technology Performance Review Template will help you systematically collect the information you need.
  • Your employee feedback  is a goldmine of insights. It will highlight redundancies, gaps, workflow inefficiencies, missed customer touchpoints, employee frustration, wasteful spending, and so much more.

    Let your possibility mind wander freely.
  • Create an action plan to prevent decision overwhelm while keeping the momentum alive. We all know what happens when there are too many opportunities to explore and problems to solve. Prioritize based on your company’s unique strategy, focus, budget, and bandwidth.

  • What is an Automated Shadow IT App Discovery?

    Since compiling a list of apps is tedious, time-consuming, and usually incomplete, putting technology to work to do the data collection for you solves the problem. 

    At a glance, this is how technology does the work for you.

    Let’s assume that your company uses either O365 or Google Workspaces. (It’s not a requirement, but it’s an efficient approach.)

  • The information gathering application accesses your O365 or Google Workspaces user list.
  • A small piece of software (called an agent) is installed on every user’s device.
  • The agent immediately discovers all of the apps installed on each device.
  • You now have a detailed list of every app used by your company, including the employee’s name(s) and how often they use the app.
  • As you move ahead with your action plan, you have the ability to approve applications that are appropriate for your company. On the other hand, you can block applications your research tells you should not be used. 
  • Because these unseen agents are continually running, your shadow IT management and opportunity discovery become a valuable part of your technology foundation.

  • If you want to avoid wasteful and risky tech creep in your company, we’ll help you get started. Let’s talk any time. No obligation. Then you can decide if discovering opportunities is right for you.

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    Linda Rolf is a lifelong curious learner who believes a knowledge-first approach builds valuable, lasting client relationships.

    She loves discovering the unexpected connections among technology, data, information, people and process. For more than four decades, Linda and Quest Technology Group have been their clients' trusted advisor and strategic partner.

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