Shadow IT is here to stay.

With the rise of cloud computing, the internet of things (IoT), and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) culture — plus the latest hybrid working trends — users are increasingly taking IT matters into their own hands.

Let's say that your company uses Microsoft Teams for video conferences, but a member of the sales department needs the Zoom app to communicate with a prospect. The employee goes ahead and downloads the software from the internet without consulting the IT department. The person has good intentions, wanting to get the job done, but this practice falls under the problematic practice of shadow IT.

What Is Shadow IT?

This term refers to "IT devices, software and services outside the ownership or control of IT organizations," as per Gartner's definition. Shadow IT examples include attempts to:

  • Install unsanctioned apps.
  • Connect personal devices to the corporation's network.
  • Solve tech issues without IT guidance.
  • Create a new account (for example, signing up for a website with their work email).

As a practice that brings both benefits and risks to organizations, opinions are divided when it comes to shadow IT. There will always be a degree of shadow IT as employees try to customize their use of workplace technology. But understanding the causes of shadow IT offers an opportunity for organizations to enhance digital experience and engagement.

With the right digital experience management tool, IT teams have the visibility necessary to minimize any security and performance gaps.

What Motivates Users to Resort to Unsanctioned Technology

The Covid-19 pandemic and distributed workforces have underscored a lack of IT oversight within organizations as employees connect to corporate networks remotely and take the initiative to improve their own digital experience. Users might resort to unsanctioned technology to fill a need they see in their workday. In other words, they might be trying to:

  • Accelerate work processes.
  • Work better with external stakeholders.
  • Foster innovation by trying new tools.
  • Personalize their experience with workplace technology.
  • Solve IT problems more quickly.

Going through an approval process in order to use a new service or application might take time and impact productivity. It might also create resistance to finding new and better ways of working and innovating.

Slow support desk responsiveness is another driver of shadow IT. Technical issues are a common source of frustration for employees because they can cause delays and downtime.

Slow resolution impacts staff productivity and engagement, too. If users believe it will take too long to solve IT problems by submitting support tickets, they might attempt to find and use fixes on their own. Lakeside Software's research into digital employee experience (DEX) indicates that most employees only report a tech issue to IT departments 60% of the time or less.