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Leveraging Shadow IT to Drive an Enterprise Integration Strategy

Here are three ways IT departments can transform shadow IT users from rogue implementers into strategic business leaders.

ITPro Today

February 28, 2024

4 Min Read
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Today's data-driven workforce is hungry for results and so are quick to turn to less conventional methods to achieve them. The last few decades have created a modern digital workforce that is technically skilled and adept at finding innovative solutions to their biggest problems — with or without IT approval or oversight. The adoption of shadow IT, or unauthorized applications or tools, continues to accelerate as employees struggle to access and analyze data from hundreds of cloud-based applications to effectively meet goals.

With cybersecurity threats rising, data security leaders have traditionally clamped down on unauthorized tools to avoid introducing potential vulnerabilities to existing enterprise systems. Not to mention, with high staff turnover, enterprises risk losing critical knowledge as shadow IT users trickle in and out of companies. However, considering widespread decentralized IT leadership and limited integration guidance, this hasn't deterred understaffed teams from finding innovative solutions on their own to bypass cumbersome collaboration tools and effectively use data. And despite leaders' best efforts to stem the tide, it looks like shadow IT is here to stay. According to a survey from Gartner, shadow IT makes up 30-40% of all IT spending across large enterprises.

Related:Policies for SaaS Apps, Shadow IT Prove Difficult to Manage

Given all this shadow spend, rogue workers are incentivized to pursue ways to integrate these solutions on their own. Forward-thinking organizations recognize that shadow IT is not disappearing anytime soon and are using the shadow IT momentum to drive more effective integration strategies and data cultures. We'll explore three ways IT departments can transform shadow IT users from rogue implementers into strategic business leaders. 

Take Inventory of Your New Digital Workforce

The generational mix of today's workforce produces two types of employees — the digital natives who grew up with technology and have a range of skills, and the "digital immigrants" who came of age ahead of the technology.

With business and industry afflicted by IT talent shortages across the board, taking advantage of digital natives' skills can help companies implement integration strategies and improve performance. Non-technically skilled workers, often referred to as business technologists, can help companies in several specific ways.

Create an Integration-First Culture

Organizations should seek to understand some of the deeper reasons behind why many employees might choose to utilize unsanctioned IT resources. For many non-technically skilled workers, shadow IT exists as a way to more effectively find workarounds to common data integration problems and drive success in the business. As organizations expand, the barrier between technical and non-technical workers will continue to grow unless organizations work toward unifying both teams towards common goals. Data silos create barriers that can reduce collaboration, innovation, and progress. Organizations should leverage an integration strategy to seamlessly unite both technical and non-technical workers and drive the formation of a cohesive, integration-focused company culture.

A Modern Approach to Integrating Critical Data Processes

Many organizations rely on a multitude of data sources and applications that are required to work together cohesively. But as organizations grow, so does the potential for inaccurate data and business costs. According to Gartner, bad data costs the U.S. $3 trillion a year. In response to data silos and challenges accessing and utilizing enterprise data for business decisions, many skilled workers turn to shadow IT for its ability to aggregate data from multiple sources. Organizations can limit the spread of shadow IT by investing in an integration platform like iPaaS (integration platform-as-a-service) that holistically integrates data and applications while reducing errors and costs. Such platforms can improve the speed and accuracy of business decisions, while helping to drive a larger data integration strategy.

With the deployment of innovative, new cloud-based applications, countless business processes are disconnected from each other and require repetitive, manual efforts to maintain uptime. Streamlining business processes with automation will enable organizations to define consistency and improve visibility into business activities like sales tracking and cash flow management. Organizations should evaluate automation platforms that utilize prebuilt flows, settings, and configurations that allow workers across the entire organization to access data without extensive data siloes or manual efforts. Additionally, as technical talent becomes harder to come by, the number of workers in organizations with limited coding backgrounds will continue to proliferate. Automation and low-code platforms can help ease the burden of these workers by providing a simplified way to access critical data despite a lack of technical expertise. 

With Gartner predicting that shadow IT users will rise to 75% by 2027, it's clear that shadow IT is not going away. Smart organizations shouldn't panic, however. As the tech industry continues to accelerate the adoption of cloud-based applications, disruptive organizations can stay ahead of the curve by viewing shadow IT not as a threat, but as an opportunity to drive improvements in data processes, digital strategy, and employee upskilling.

Nick Piette is Director of Product Marketing at Celigo.


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