Should IT Directors Eradicate Shadow IT or Embrace It?

Neil Miller

November 15th, 2016 BPM  

As the world of software becomes more democratized, IT directors are faced with a serious conundrum.

bpm feature - shadow IT

Business leaders want to have increasing control over the software they use; they want to pick it, play with it, and implement it across their departments without much interference from IT. Yet, they still hold IT accountable when it comes to integration, bug fixes, data security, account maintenance, and customizations.

If the IT director exercises authoritarian control and forces all software to be centrally controlled, business leaders balk and demand their freedom. If IT directors allow complete freedom, the situation turns to anarchy and they become little more than errand boys sent to fix software that doesn’t fit with the organization’s size, goals, or security standards.

What is Shadow IT?

Shadow IT is any IT system or solution that is used in an organization without explicit approval. It might be the marketing team signing up for a digital marketing platform or a sales team tracking leads with their own platform, all without IT’s knowledge.

Shadow IT brings short-term advantages to department but it also comes with long-term problems. What happens when a department gets used to using a system that doesn’t scale as it grows? What kinds of proprietary data is being stored in unsecured cloud systems? What contracts were signed at the time of purchase? How reliable is the system? What if it tries to connect to other unapproved software with API endpoints?

Recent surveys suggest that 80% of workers admit to using SaaS applications at work, often without IT approval. 40% of all IT spend comes from outside the IT department. Cisco estimated that the typical firm has 15 to 22 times more cloud applications running than have been authorized by IT.

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Is There a Single Solution to Shadow IT Management?

When it comes to business process management, an organization-wide IT strategy seems to be the best fit. You invest in a sophisticated high-end solution to map out your complete order processing service and hire an expensive consultant to set it up for you.

But what about the administration team that now wants an automated process for visitor passes to your facility? It hardly seems worth it to spend the same amount of time and money to set that process up as well. Plus, the admin team is convinced that it is a simple process and gets glassy-eyed when you tell them it will take about two months to set everything up and test it in the new system. Yet, you don’t want to manage two or more business process management tools for the same company.

In the ideal world, IT directors need a solution that:

  • Everyone can use
  • Is cost effective for both large and small projects
  • Doesn’t demand a lot of involvement from IT staff

The Best Approach

When it comes to selecting the best business process management software, IT directors need to stick to these guidelines.

1. Choose a platform. If you are managing the BPM needs for an entire organization, don’t choose something that seems to be specialized only for a very small niche group. A platform will allow you to create an unlimited number of automated applications for each of your processes.

2. Stick with human-centric BPM. Human-centric BPM means that when a human sits down to map out a process, the tools and UI/UX of the software lets the user think like a human. A human thinks about processes in terms of a sequence of business tasks. A machine thinks about processes in terms of conditions, mapping out every exception, and identifying logical errors. The best business process management tools will allow a human to think in terms of the most likely scenario for a process to follow.

3. Verify the quality of support. Great customer support from a cloud BPM tool is essential to pulling off a great shadow IT BPM solution. While a well-designed, human-centric BPM solution should be fairly intuitive, fantastic, fast-responding support will be essential. High quality support should be able to help you create complex processes, and also address any everyday issues your users have. This helps you cut down on expensive consulting fees.

Support includes on-demand (preferably instant chat, but also phone and email) and detailed documentation. Before you invest into a BPM solution, examine the support features. What kind of documentation do they offer? Is it video or documentation based? Is it comprehensive or minimal? What are their SLAs for service? How quickly do they respond to questions?

When you look at reviews for BPM products, pay attention to how often customers talk about the level of support.

Empower Users, Maintain Control

Shadow IT may seem like a good option in the short-term, but all IT directors know the dark paths it leads to. However, being authoritarian and command-and-control can’t work in today’s world of technology. When searching for a business process management solution, find a platform that is human-centric and has a high level of support. Then, you can spend more time on the tasks that matter!