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Shadow IT may not be all bad

Ben Farrell
August 17, 2012

Shadow IT has gotten a bad reputation in the corporate landscape. This negative connotation that comes with shadow IT is an understandable response to the practice. Essentially, shadow IT is what happens when corporate departments take control of ordering IT solutions and subscribe to systems without direct oversight from the technology professionals.

According to a recent InfoWorld report, shadow IT departments began emerging as early as the PC era, but have grown considerably in light of smartphones, tablets and other solutions that enable consumerization. However, cloud computing is giving shadow IT departments even more power.

Shadow IT departments can create major problems. They can subscribe to so many technology resources that IT budgets expand considerably without any kind of oversight. This can also contribute to data protection and regulatory issues. These problems exist because solutions are deployed without following the necessary organizational precautions that IT puts in place. Instead, business departments subscribe to solutions on their own, the news source explained.

While there is considerable risk involved in shadow IT, the report said there are also major gains. Namely that the solutions adopted by managers within business departments are generally purchased because they match well with operational needs. Basically, IT generally chooses solutions that best work within a company's technological framework, but business leaders usually select the systems that meet their day-to-day requirements in the best way possible. Because of this, shadow IT departments can actually have a meaningful, positive impact on organizations.

InfoWeek said companies can make considerable progress in improving operational efficiency by finding a way to wrangle in shadow IT without losing its benefits. Essentially, shadow IT is definitely a problem, but IT can learn a lot about taking a business and customer-centric approach to operations.

One way to shift the focal points of IT operations is to enlist the help of business process management software. BPM tools help companies take the diverse range of technological solutions available to them and integrate the systems into a cohesive and user-friendly IT platform. By enlisting BPM systems, organizations are able to make the most of IT, helping them gain the advantages of shadow IT without the risk. This is made possible by automating many of the underlying technological tasks that can hold business functionality back and letting employees focus on technology as an enabler.