Benefits of Shadow IT: A Latent Force Driving Innovation & Productivity


Shadow IT is a current business reality. It's difficult to discard it through security policies. Though it poses compliance & security risks, it drives innovation in your company and improves your employees' productivity. 

One rising tide lifts all the boats

Most of the standard apps widely today (hello Slack) were once shadow apps. But once they were discovered and business leaders (or CIOs) realized their value, they were rolled out in the entire company. 

Just one example creates a positive impact for the entire shadow apps in the minds of tech leaders. They are now more receptive to such bottom-up demands from the employees. The saying, "One rising tide lifts all the boats," perfectly fits in this case.

A survey by Entrust Datacard revealed that employees were more productive when allowed to use their preferred applications, and 80% also said that their organizations must deploy tools that employees suggest. 

  • Competitive advantage to your business

    It is necessary to find new solutions and innovative ideas to transcend the competitors in the current business environment. If your employees are constantly looking for new ways to do things more effectively, it will make your company more innovative.

    Imagine a project on training a new machine learning model, which was expected to be completed in 3 months got completed in 2 months because an employee found an app that could automate annotation for training the data sets saving the team many weeks of work. 

    The flexibility offered by apps in the market may invoke an employee to choose them over the ones provided by the IT department. Also, there are chances for a specific employee who does a particular work to know which tool will be better for the work to be done effectively.  

    New tools have the potential to remodel the old processes, making employees work smarter in a shorter amount of time. 

  • Increases employee productivity

    The main reason employees turn to shadow apps is that the apps provided by the information technology department are either difficult to use or don't solve the problem or entangle from the restrictions set up by the organization. Embracing shadow IT, can give employees the tools they need daily to complete tasks.

    With tools that have complex UI, they will spend more time learning and understanding it. But tools of their interest can make them accomplish anything within a short period.

    You need to collaborate with your employees and encourage them to come to you when they need a new application. It would help if you created open communication channels to do this.

    You can survey your employees to know why they have chosen a specific app over what's provided by the company. You can interview the employees to understand why they feel it is better suited to do work. 

    This way, you can learn about new emerging applications and make relevant changes in your SaaS stack to better suit your organization's needs.

    Employees become a great source of expert insight for ways to increase productivity and efficiency of work. Since they perform the day-to-day task, they know which tools make them complete the process faster and easier and make their workflow inefficient.

    Also, these new SaaS tools act as a motivation for employees to achieve more with less, which in turn increases their engagement. 

  • More heads look for better tools

    In the past, it was the IT department doing all the tasks related to technology. They were controlling it in a way that doesn't make sense in the SaaS world. 

    Gone are those days when the IT department was the one with access to technology. Today it is easy for anyone to procure an application, use it and discard it. 

    If the IT department helps employees address their needs and get the tech tools they need in a secured manner, employees will look for better tools, and the IT doesn't need to pull it all by themselves.

    This streamlines the work of IT as the employees themselves are looking for tools that will help them complete tasks quickly and easily.

  • Drives digital transformation

    Due to a lack of communication between the IT department and employees, the former isn't aware of whether the employees are happy with the tech stack. This is the main reason shadow IT exists in organizations. 

    Instead of reducing shadow IT, you can analyze the type of shadow apps that each department uses to understand the individual needs and know what their core necessities are. It drives digital transformation and enhances communication with the employees.

    It also helps you attract and retain talented employees. Employees want to work on the latest technology to remain competitive. If you force them to use legacy software, they will leave for those organizations that understand this game.

Shadow IT Risks

Preventing Employees from Trying New Apps is a Bad Solution

All these apps are not bad on their own. The problem arises when you are not aware of their existence in your organization. 

Let's see why employees use these apps.

Employees constantly look for ways to improve their productivity (and that's a good thing, isn't it?). So, they try new tools that can help them do things more efficiently than what is possible to do with the tools provided by the company. 

Many of these tools don't work, but employees ultimately find one that works best in most cases. 

When they do, they don't use the ones provided by the company. 

On the good side, these employees make your business competitive and innovative. Often, other team members also replace their current apps with these new ones when they find these apps to be better. 

If you restrict employees from signing up for new apps, you lose team collaboration and productivity. 

But why don't these employees loop in IT?

Misalignment in roles and responsibilities. Many business & tech leaders still hold IT alone responsible for security and compliance. While this was reasonable in the on-premise world, it's not justifiable in the SaaS world. 

The SaaS ecosystem is not centralized like the traditional software world. Users drive it instead of IT. 

In their interest, IT rejects apps used by employees and sometimes blocks these apps through a firewall or proxy. However, for every blocked app, employees find something lesser-known which is, even riskier.

"Individual employees including those in top positions are spending money on technology,"  says Andrew Horne, MD, CEB London, "because they see it as an interesting and exciting opportunity to enhance the business. Also, they want to experiment with technology." 

He further adds, "It is healthy unless they are not duplicating what the company is already doing."

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