This post is sponsored by Samsung Business. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Shadow IT, which refers to tech-related activities that happen outside the scope of traditional IT, is nothing new. And if you don’t think it’s happening in your organization, you’re wrong. An article in techcrunch.com revealed that when 200 global CIOs were surveyed recently, 83 percent of them experienced some level of unauthorized provisioning of cloud services—shadow IT. Even worse, nearly 72 percent of executives don’t know how many Shadow IT applications are being used within their organization. Shadow IT presents real risk—from a security standpoint—in 2016.

Is Shadow IT a Real Issue in the Workplace?

According to a prediction from Gartner, shadow IT management will account for 35 percent of total IT expenditures in 2016.

Companies are beginning to realize employees may prefer to find workarounds for legacy IT solutions. In small and large enterprises, personnel gravitate toward the simplest solutions. Legacy methods can be slow and may not work as well for employees on the go. Why go and find a work-related device when your primary cellphone or tablet is sitting on the table?

Unaddressed shadow IT presents a real risk in the business world. Each additional, unsanctioned device or application removes another layer of the “security blanket,” and increases the likelihood of information mismanagement. In 2016, shadow IT represents an unmitigated hazard only for those companies unwilling to address it. Whether you hire four employees or 1,000, you need a strategy to bring unsanctioned IT practices out of the shadows.

Shed Light on the Subject to Find a Resolution

Management needs to discover how their employees are using their devices before the enterprise develops a shadow IT problem. Keep track of how employees are using sanctioned devices as well as which devices they use to access proprietary applications. Companies can also rely on informal data collection to determine which non-sanctioned applications and tools employees prefer.

How do you keep track? Cloud application and device management is a tall order for many in-house IT teams to fulfill, which is why some large tech solutions companies employ monitoring platforms. While monitoring may not completely remove the threat shadow IT presents, it does provide companies with better control and more insights.

These platforms offer analytics and progress marking tools so companies can easily address security threats and reduce overall IT costs. Cisco, for example, released a new monitoring platform in early 2016. A handful of other companies, including ManagedMethods, also developed cloud application monitoring and control suites.

Embrace Shadow IT

For all the risks shadow IT presents, it also carries the potential for amazing rewards. New applications can revolutionize business processes and allow employees to work smarter and more efficiently. If companies completely restrict an employee’s ability to “go off the grid” they could compromise the enterprise-wide potential for meaningful innovation.

Furthermore, younger workers are looking for companies that give them space to grow and work as they see fit. Restricting application and device usage could lead valuable talent away from your company. Instead, I believe companies need to strike a careful balance between management and flexibility. 

Educate Employees to Reduce Risks and Maximize Benefits 

Companies can successfully control shadow IT with the right employee education and tools. Today, many workers do not equate using certain applications or devices with extreme consequences. A team may not have thought ahead to what happens when a shadow IT application fails in the middle of a project. IT may not be ready with the answers when employees present major issues with unsupported tools.

In conjunction with education, companies may want to impose data guidelines rather than application restrictions. Instead of telling an employee he or she can only use one system for work, an employer may outline what type of data is okay to work on in unsupported applications and which data should remain secure. Information usage guidelines can help a company develop enforceable boundaries.

Know What This Means for Your Business

If you’re ready to consider the implications of shadow IT on your enterprise, explore the risks and rewards in 2016. Consider how shadow IT affects regulation compliance, workflows, internal and external communication, and overall security. Empower your IT team to implement cloud management solutions and reconcile cloud technologies with your owned infrastructure for better monitoring. The IT department supports most business processes, from workflows to marketing, and your company can’t afford to ignore the world of shadow IT any longer.

Additional Resources on this Topic:

CIOs Wrestling With Shadow IT: Cloud Maturity Assessments are Key
The 20 Riskiest Shadow IT Applications, and How to Manage Them
Why Shutting Down Shadow IT Stifles Innovation

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photo credit: Hiding in light via photopin (license)

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