Featured article: “Shining a Light on Shadow IT” by Traveler’s Global Technology’s Risk Advisor Series
“In years past, corporate IT has maintained tight control over all enterprise hardware and software. Some of this responsibility is now shifting to nontechnical business managers. Cloud services and personal technologies are now so easy to implement that they can be put to work for the company’s benefit with minimal engineering help required. Even though CIOs cannot stop Shadow IT, they must at least address it. And the first step to getting a handle on this trend is understanding the factors that created Shadow IT in the first place.
FACTOR #1: UNDERSTAFFED IT DEPARTMENTS
Technology companies often struggle with a lack of staffing to meet their needs. This can result from budget pressures, but it is also a product of a scarcity of candidates in the marketplace with adequate software or IT skills. In a survey of the technology industry, IT staffing association TechServe Alliance found that developers with specialized programming language skills were the most difficult to find. The same survey found that technology companies were looking for more personnel with web, mobile and cloud computing skills. IT professionals highlight information security as one area in which more staffing is sorely needed. In an ISC2 Global Information Security Workforce Study, 62% of respondents indicated that their organizations needed more IT security personnel. Similarly, a survey from the Ponemon Institute found that 77% of IT security and human resources specialists believe that their organizations do not have enough IT security staff.
FACTOR #2: BUREAUCRATIC APPROVALS PROCESS
Business managers are anxious to put their hardware and services budgets to work. However, if they stay within the confines of their own corporation, many face long, slow corporate IT approval processes. A 2015 research study by the Business Performance Innovation (BPI) Network showed that 44% of business and technology managers cited gaining consensus and support for new technology investments as one of the biggest challenges they face. Similarly, an eMarketer survey showed that just 15.5% of marketers were allowed to spend freely on business software. Over 27% indicated that all purchases were heavily scrutinized, and more than one-fifth required approval to spend as little as $1,000. The bureaucracy involved in the approvals process is a double-edged sword. On one hand, thorough analysis benefits the corporation by reducing the risk of an unwise purchase. On the other, it prevents the business from being as agile as the marketplace requires. More and more managers choose to bypass the approvals process altogether in favor of Shadow IT. It’s quicker and it cuts through the red tape that would otherwise stifle the business innovation they are seeking to generate.
FACTOR #3: THE RISE OF SHADOW APPLICATION DEVELOPMENT
Business unit managers need custom applications written to meet key business needs. But because their official corporate programmers are often backlogged, they sometimes look for application developers elsewhere. They usually find them in two popular Shadow IT sources: “citizen developers” within their own department and external software development firms. Technology companies often employ people with programming knowledge in functions outside of their corporate IT and software development departments. Co-workers often turn to these people for help when faced with difficult technology questions or obscure error messages. Many are aspiring programmers looking for an opportunity to change careers. And with so many free and low-cost resources available online, they can teach themselves how to program using open source tools like Java, mySQL and Eclipse.”