It’s amazing what some people will do to reach the top. The rules they’ll bend, break, or ‘accidently’ forget (read: ignore!).

In sport this can obviously lead to doping. To performance enhancing drugs ranging from steroids and stimulants, to growth hormones and diuretics. In athletics alone, surveys carried out by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) suggest nearly half of professional athletes break guidelines to enhance performance.

A dark shadow in IT

There are also rules being broken (or at least being politely ignored!) in the world of enterprise technology – this time it comes with the title shadow IT. It’s a huge problem too, as according to Gartner:

•    By next year one-third of successful cyber attacks will be achieved through shadow IT apps
•    It also accounts for 30%-40% of IT spending in large enterprises
•    Cisco reports that enterprises typically use more than 1,200 cloud services – with over 98% of these shadow IT
•    A Logicalis CIO survey suggests 90% of CIOs are frequently bypassed by line of business in IT decisions

Unauthorized software

Shadow IT is well known to a technical audience. High level, it’s a term that refers to all tools brought into a business under the radar of IT approval. The most prevalent form of shadow IT involves cloud services, and the many free or low cost apps available from SaaS providers.
Typical examples include the use of:

•    Online messaging apps (WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger etc.)
•    Email messaging tools (Gmail, myMail etc.)
•    Document sharing tools (DropBox, Google Docs etc.)
•    Voice over IP software (Skype, Zoom etc.)

In search of capabilities

It should be noted that most users enter the murky world of shadow IT with good intentions. Like the athlete simply trying to overcome an injury or illness, business users rely on unauthorized technologies to help them:

•    Save time, get jobs done, meet tight deadlines
•    Access and share data quickly, often remotely
•    Avoid complex IT policies and ‘going through IT’
•    Work with tools that they’re familiar with (and easy to purchase)

In many ways, this activity can be viewed as an inevitable legacy of BYOD practices. Where people became familiar with finding their own solutions. They also became skilled in side stepping IT, or finding workarounds for any perceived shortfall in capability.

Worst of all (from an IT perspective at least), users have become less patient, more informed, and definitely more inventive!

Managing software assets

The challenge for CIOs and IT teams is therefore two-fold:

•    Short-term: to accurately detect and catalogue all software instances running in their organizations
•    Long-term: to ensure the business has access to the full range of tools and services it needs to function properly

The first point can be quickly addressed with a Cloud & Software Asset Management (SAM) assessment. From here you can quickly build a detailed picture of all ‘live’ assets, and conduct an analysis of the security and data compliance risks connected to any unauthorized deployments.

The second point requires a more strategic analysis of usage patterns, again based on a thorough Cloud & SAM assessment. Do this right, and you’ll be in a position to align budgets to actual need, reduce a significant security and compliance risk, while also ensuring you’re better prepared for any future software audit.

Enhance performance, reduce risk

Shadow IT partly stems from user frustrations with the existing tools at their disposal. But the introduction of any unauthorized/unsupported software also brings with it huge risk into the business – risks that end up being ‘owned’ by the CIO or senior IT leaders.

What you need is external support for investigating the issue, for understanding cause and effect, and for finding a sensible long-term solution. As experts in Cloud & SAM assessments, COMPAREX can help you quickly get to grips with what software is running in your organization, and provide practical recommendations for avoiding any unwanted surprises.


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Peter Verbeeck

Peter Verbeeck

Solution Advisor

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