What is Shadow IT and How it Appears?


What is shadow IT?

Shadow IT refers to IT resources (devices, software, services) used by employees without the explicit permission of the organization’s IT department. Either the technology is not approved by the department or IT specialists are simply unaware that a business unit is using new software or subscribe to a cloud service.

Most organizations heavily underestimate the scale of shadow IT adoption. Usually, the number of software products and services used by employees is several times bigger than CIOs are aware of or approved of. This number grows exponentially. According to the survey on shadow IT conducted by Stratecast and sponsored by McAfee, more than 80% of employees admit using non-approved SaaS applications to fulfill their work-related responsibilities and on average 35% of all SaaS apps in the company are purchased and used without notifying anyone in the IT department. Interestingly enough, the survey also reveals that IT employees themselves are more prone to using non-approved SaaS applications than a line of business employees. Nevertheless, shadow IT presence is not limited to the IT sector only.


Examples of shadow IT

Shadow IT is pervasive and can plague an organization of every size, from small businesses to enterprises and global corporations. It is in every industry: Financial Services, Healthcare, Energy, Oil & Gas, Chemical, Manufacturing, Education, Public Sector, Governments large and small.

Employees in any type of organization can be using such IT assets that are outside of the ownership or control of the company’s IT department:

  • Portable data storage devices
  • Desktop productivity tools (word processing, spreadsheets)
  • Social media applications (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Snapchat)
  • Filesharing, storage, and backup applications (Dropbox, Apple iCloud, Google Drive)
  • Online e-mail services (Gmail, Yahoo Mail)
  • Online analytics tools (Google Analytics, Yahoo Web Analytics)
  • Messaging software (WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat)
  • Web conferencing platforms (Skype, GoToWebinar, WebEx), etc.

How shadow IT appears in a company?

In today’s dynamic business environment where organizations seek to be agile and applications develop quickly to meet constantly evolving business needs, shadow IT grows out of pure necessity when employees are looking for ways to solve specific work-related tasks. Often the latest software is immediately considered valuable by a particular business unit. Instead, traditional IT departments appear rigid and reluctant to embrace timely innovation. Obtaining software through corporate channels can take too long and require a lot of paperwork as IT departments usually spend quite some time evaluating prospective software and implementing it due to outdated corporate policies and processes.

A high proportion of shadow IT applications are cloud-based and do not require internal IT involvement for deployment and implementation. The cloud-based model of IT, and particularly the SaaS delivery model, enables business units to acquire new systems more easily and use their own budget to purchase dedicated applications and subscribe to services.

The blending of personal and business use of devices and applications have become commonplace, especially among the younger and more mobile workforce. Employees expect to be able to use for work personal mobile devices and SaaS which they use at home. This Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend encourages employees to use their personal devices (smartphones, tablets, PCs) to process corporate data. Personal devices are used to access the company’s email, internal services, address books, calendars, etc. This ‘work anywhere’ concept positively impacts employee productivity, creates a more flexible workplace, and is generally supported by top management.

The shadow IT phenomenon has hit organizations in recent years. It creates new ways employees approach IT issues and enables business units to experiment with applications that are developed and downloaded at a rapid pace.


17 thoughts on “What is Shadow IT and How it Appears?