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Three Reasons Why You Can’t Beat Shadow IT (And Why That’s OK)

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Three Reasons Why You Can’t Beat Shadow IT (And Why That’s OK)

As part of Solutions Review’s Contributed Content Seriesa collection of contributed articles written by our enterprise tech thought leader communityUri Haramati, the founder and CEO of Torii, outlines three of the reasons companies can’t beat shadow IT and then explains why that might not be so bad, after all.

Let’s be honest: shadow IT is stressful. It might not be your top concern, but it probably occupies a corner of your mind, poking and prodding at your sense of peace. And, when you think about it, shadow IT can contribute to the things that really stress you out—cutting down on bloated budgets, increasing user adoption of critical apps, and keeping your organization safe from evolving cybersecurity threats. All of these headaches are impacted by shadow IT in some way.  

So, one day, you decide enough is enough. It’s time to clamp down on unsanctioned app adoption. Limit the vulnerabilities, streamline the SaaS stack, and right the IT ship. But then, reality hits. How do you fight a foe that is, by its very definition, the thing you don’t see? 

That’s the obstacle for IT professionals. How do you beat shadow IT? Unfortunately, shadow IT exists for several reasons, and there’s surprisingly little you can do to eradicate it. Here are three fundamental reasons why you won’t beat shadow IT and why accepting this fact could be the smarter approach. 

1) Culture is Against You

Let’s face it: Millennials and Gen Z workers grew up in an era of technological democracy. They’re accustomed to selecting their own tools and applications, going far beyond the limits of corporate software to meet their needs. Fighting shadow IT isn’t just about enforcing rules and policies but battling ingrained cultural habits. When a generation of workers resists your oversight, you face a behemoth. What you’re really fighting is not a few rogue apps but a cultural movement that values freedom, efficiency, and personal choice over corporate guidelines. 

2) You’ve Got Gaps You Can’t See

More often than not, shadow IT emerges as a solution to a problem. When the tools the organization provides fall short, employees take matters into their own hands. They download apps and services that help them do their job more efficiently, even at the cost of corporate compliance. Employees are not the problem; the gaps in your IT stack are. Can you blame them for taking the initiative to complete tasks, even if it’s not how IT departments would prefer? Your employees are trying to meet demands with limited resources, and they’ll use any tool at their disposal to do so. 

3) Worker Churn Complicates Matters

The modern employment landscape is characterized by frequent job-hopping. When one employee leaves and another takes their place, there’s often a technological reshuffling. New hires bring in their preferred tools and apps, some of which might quietly request integration with existing enterprise systems. This constant flux can become a potential security risk as every new app becomes another endpoint that needs securing. 

So what now? If shadow IT is here to stay, do we just accept all the nasty side effects that come with it? Obviously not; instead, it’s time to take a more strategic approach to this cloaked foe.  

If You Can’t Beat It, Illuminate It 

Acknowledging that you can’t extinguish the fire of shadow IT doesn’t mean you let it rage uncontrollably. Instead, consider a more pragmatic approach: illumination. In order to illuminate shadow IT, you deploy detection methods that identify newly adopted applications and services. This practice has long been used by SaaS Management Platforms, which are uniquely designed for SaaS-first organizations.  

Essentially, these tools discover shadow IT by monitoring multiple sources simultaneously. Things like Slack or Google integrations, expense reports, and even browser extensions continuously monitor your SaaS stack, instantly discovering when corporate email addresses are used to sign up for new tools. These methods provide a secure yet complete way to shine a light wherever the darkness emerges. 

But, discovery is not enough. If you genuinely want to gain peace of mind in the face of shadow IT, you also need to understand the motives for the adoption and the intentions of the adopter. For many organizations, that means sending out a survey that asks the big questions:  

While the questions won’t prevent negligence, they remind the adopter to be intentional about their use and help IT better understand the reason for this app. With that visibility and knowledge combined with governance policies, IT can make informed judgments about the applications, security considerations, and future cost-saving initiatives.  

Collecting this data allows you to distinguish between shadow IT that genuinely benefits the organization and poses a risk. It changes the narrative from shadow IT being a lurking monster to a neutral entity—its goodness or badness is determined by how it’s managed. And at the end of the day, that’s true for all technology—cloaked in shadows or sitting in daylight. 

The battle against shadow IT might never be won, but that’s no reason for despair. By shifting the focus from eradication to illumination, you can turn this so-called menace into an opportunity for improvement and optimization. Your real mission is not to eradicate shadow IT but to understand it, manage it, and leverage it for organizational benefit. After all, if you can’t beat them, join them.

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