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Caught! The Real Culprit of Shadow IT

There are some amazing SaaS options out there, so many that IT cannot be expected to find them all first

Once you learn the definition of shadow IT, it shouldn’t be too shocking to learn how widespread it is at companies large and small all over the world. I hate to assume, but the odds are, that you yourself have used a non-IT approved SaaS option for the same reason as everyone else, myself included. We’re all expected to do our jobs faster, and at a higher quality than we did in the past, and sometimes it’s just too easy to go behind the backs of those whom we perceive to slow us down, or act as a blocker.

A recent study showed that eighty percent of those polled admitted using SaaS applications and tools without IT’s approval, which, when you’re part of that eighty percent, isn’t all that shocking. The real kicker is the revelation of who has been using shadow IT SaaS solutions more than anyone.

IT employees themselves.

What’s their reasoning? “IT users feel they can handle the risk better.” That's...not really good enough.

Even as an occasional user of shadow IT myself (I’m trying to quit!) I am happy to see that not every article found online simply touts the ill-advised practice as out-of-control, or impossible to stop. In fact, now that we’ve all learned just how widespread the problem is, many are already well underway in finding a way to rein it in. And in what should relieve CIOs, security professionals, and others responsible for heeling shadow IT as soon as possible—the solution is shockingly simple.

Put a clear policy in place that lists the SaaS options that are allowed, and also formally states that if you’re using one that is not listed, particularly those that are discovered to put you and your customers’ data at risk—this is a real problem.

But how do you know which ones to allow? Not only is this easy, it’s healthy for the culture of your business. Speak with those employees who are using shadow IT, and who have come to rely on these apps to do their job. Let them explain why they chose this or that option, and why the non-shadowy options prohibit them from doing their jobs, or more importantly, from innovating and helping take the company to the next level.

Many of the applications that employees are secretly utilizing probably aren’t a security threat, and like we learned earlier, I’d be willing to bet that many of them are also being used by IT employees as well as others. But as McAfee Asia-Pacific CTO Sean Duca explains, it’s the “shadow” aspect that’s ultimately “bad for business.”

With shadow IT usage being so rampant, across multiple departments, employees aren’t turning to these non-approved options out of laziness, or spite. It’s because IT doesn’t have the time to fully vet every SaaS option out there. Speak with employees to learn what’s helping them do their jobs. Make this an opportunity, as Duca suggests, to “be more open and candid,” to increase the collaboration and communication between departments, and so that “companies can consider purchasing the products so they could be used securely from inside their organizations.”

There are some amazing SaaS options out there, so many that IT cannot be expected to find them all first. But when a new option comes along, especially one that helps you innovate better and faster—don’t leave it in the shadows and put your job or your company at risk. If it’s as great of a solution as you think it is, get it approved, and perhaps even more of your company can benefit and innovate from it than just yourself.

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