Main Benefits of Shadow IT: Do They Justify the Risks?

Publication date: Apr 27, 2021

Last Published: Apr 29, 2021

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Read Time : 5 minutes

We’re sure you’ve heard the term “shadow IT” before, but you may have brushed it off as something that’s not relevant to your organization. Well, shadow IT is so widespread that the likelihood of you not being affected by it, is slim.

That’s bad news if you have yet to find out what’s lurking in the shadows of your organization, but the existence of shadow IT by itself, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, shadow IT offers several important benefits that may, in some cases, outweigh the risks associated with it.

What Is Shadow IT?

Before we dive deep into the benefits of shadow IT, let’s first take a look at how the term is defined:

  • “Shadow IT refers to IT devices, software, and services outside the ownership or control of IT organizations.” – Gartner
  • “Shadow IT is the use of IT-related hardware or software by a department or individual without the knowledge of the IT or security group within the organization. It can encompass cloud services, software, and hardware.” – Cisco  

Real-world examples of shadow IT include employees downloading a new application from the internet to open an unsupported file, signing up for cloud storage to easily access work documents from any device, or bringing their own devices to work.

These and other shadow IT examples can be found in almost every organization, and they are far more common than most CIOs believe. According to Cisco’s Shadow IT report, CIOs underestimate the number of shadow IT applications in their organizations by a factor of 15 to 22.


6 Critical Cybersecurity Policies Every Organization Must Have

Understanding the Risks of Shadow IT

The uncontrolled spread of shadow IT is a major problem because it creates a significant security risk.

Back in 2016, Gartner estimated that a third of successful attacks experienced by enterprises would be on their shadow IT resources by 2020.

Why is shadow IT a security risk? Because non-managed applications and technology create security gaps and compliance issues due to the inherent lack of visibility and control over them.

It may seem then that simply banishing shadow IT with a well-crafted security policy is the safest and most reasonable approach, but that’s not really the case. For starters, shadow IT is a fact of life and fighting it is like hitting a rock with an egg.

More importantly, however, shadow IT can be a powerful driver of innovation and productivity. To take advantage of its hidden benefits, organizations must learn to control it, just like early humans paved the way for our digital present by learning to control fire.

Top 3 Benefits of Shadow IT

Let’s take a closer look at three benefits of help you understand how your organization can benefit from shadow IT.

1. Increased Productivity

A survey by Entrust Datacard has revealed that 97 percent of employees are more productive when allowed to use their preferred technologies. The same survey has also discovered that 77 percent of IT professionals believe their organizations could gain a competitive edge if leaders were more collaborative about finding solutions.

These findings are hardly surprising when you really think about them. After all, you wouldn’t expect a hairdresser to be as productive with a pair of household scissors as with professional hairdressing scissors.

2. Catalyst for Innovation

When more eyes are looking, it’s easier to find better tools for the job. Employees themselves know best which software and hardware solutions can benefit them the most, so it only makes sense to let them use whatever they like without having to ask for anyone’s approval first.

It then makes even more sense for the management to carefully analyze the IT tools employees have organically started using and consider their official adoption across the entire organization. The resulting solution has a much higher chance of being closely aligned with the original business need than the one picked directly by the management.

3. Attracting Top Talent

Organizations, especially those operating in IT-heavy industries, can use shadow IT to attract and retain top talent. Job candidates with a wealth of experience always appreciate when they can use the tools that work best for them instead of having to learn how to use a completely different set of tools, which may or may not be outdated, just because someone before them was fond of them.

In a similar vein, high-performing employees are far more engaged and productive when they can work with the latest and greatest IT tools available, and they may even say “no” to better-paying job offers from competitors whose workflow likely wouldn’t suit them as well.

So, Is Shadow IT Worth the Risks?

Yes, embracing shadow IT can be worth the risks associated with it, but many organizations that decide to go this route quickly realize just how difficult it can be to maintain their cybersecurity posture when employees are allowed to use IT-related hardware or software without asking for official approval first.

If you would rather not waste your precious time implementing effective network monitoring  and figuring out the best way to train your employees around bring your own device initiatives, you can partner with an experienced provider of managed IT services and let them take care of the shadow IT risks for you.

At OSIbeyond, we understand the challenges associated with shadow IT and are ready to help small to medium-sized organizations overcome them by providing comprehensive managed IT services that include IT Help Desk Support, Cloud Solutions, Cybersecurity, Technology Strategy, and more. Contact us for more information.

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