In our last post, we discussed the high cost of outdated technology in terms of lost productivity. Older equipment is also more expensive to maintain and brings a high risk of downtime, security breaches and regulatory compliance violations. In addition, outdated technology drives employees to purchase and use technology without management approval, leading to the proliferation of “shadow IT.”

Shadow IT has become prevalent thanks to bring-your-own-device (BYOD) workstyles and the simplicity and low cost of cloud-based solutions. As consumers, we’ve grown accustomed to accessing the tools we need with a few mouse clicks or taps on our smartphones. That mindset spills over into our working lives as we obtain the technology we feel will help us do our jobs. In a recent survey by Logicalis, 31 percent of IT leaders said they are bypassed “often,” “very often” or “most of the time” when it comes to IT purchasing decisions.

While employee empowerment can be a good thing, shadow IT is problematic for several reasons. In many cases, employees select consumer-grade solutions that don’t provide robust security or meet regulatory compliance requirements. Sensitive data and intellectual property may be shared in public cloud platforms that lack adequate access controls. Cloud-based tools may also cause network performance problems if they consume a lot of bandwidth.

Although shadow IT is supposed to increase productivity, it can result in workarounds and data silos because it’s not properly integrated into business processes. And while many cloud-based solutions seem inexpensive, redundant services and underutilized subscriptions can certainly add up over time.

There are steps organizations can take to help employees become more productive while addressing the security, compliance, management and cost concerns of shadow IT. It’s all about giving employees a voice in IT decisions. Ask them about the gaps in your current IT and any outdated systems that need to be upgraded. Get their input regarding technology tools that could increase efficiency, enhance collaboration and generally make their lives easier. Let them help you select the best solutions in terms of cost, ease-of-use, manageability and security. Make sure your approval processes facilitate the implementation of necessary technologies — but develop policies with consequences for employees who decide to go rogue.

The Logicalis survey found that many IT leaders are curtailing shadow IT by becoming “brokers” of IT services. Almost half (47 percent) said that at least 30 percent of their organization’s IT is delivered by third-party service providers. IT teams are spending almost half of their time developing and managing a portfolio of external IT services. This has enabled IT leaders to spend less time on day-to-day operational tasks and more time on strategic initiatives.

For organizations that don’t have an IT manager or in-house technical support, a managed services provider can be an excellent source for advice. At SSD, we serve as strategic advisor to organizations seeking to fine-tune their IT strategies and select the right technology tools. Let us help you get a handle on shadow IT and develop an environment that supports your business objectives.