Shadow IT Policy: How to Control the Security Risk

As employees increasingly rely on personal devices and applications to conduct business, organizations must implement shadow IT policies to govern unapproved programs and prevent security breaches.

Following the rise of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), employees across a range of industries have begun relying on unapproved software to conduct professional business — and often on personal devices. A phenomenon commonly referred to as shadow IT.

It’s important to know the pros and cons of shadow IT, but the reality is that this trend is here to stay. That means that your organization needs to develop a shadow IT policy of its own, one that isn’t too controlling while still confronting security risks head-on. If you’re wondering how to get started, consider how these four factors may affect the policy that’s right for your team.

No matter which industry you’re operating in, it has never been more important to have a strong shadow IT policy in place. Whether you run an enterprise that’s new to the market or you manage IT infrastructure for an established academic institution, providing your team with the flexibility they need to meet your growth goals while simultaneously balancing security obligations is a must.


1. Embrace Innovation

Shadow IT may pose structural changes to the way your organization works. In the past, many teams have had standard processes in which IT departments collaborate with upper management to evaluate new software, integrate it into the organization’s technical suite, and train team members on new applications. Typically, employees have had to conduct official business on their professional devices — and only on approved professional software.

With the rise of BYOD and shadow IT, these dynamics have shifted. While some professionals may lament this trend, it’s an innovative progression in the way that your team members think about their roles and needs. For instance, people within your organization may be working with unapproved programs because that software is well-suited to specific client requests. Alternatively, team members may want to use apps with functionalities that will help them be more efficient, and that they already have up and running on their own devices.

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Whatever the reason employees are using unsanctioned software, your shadow IT policy should embrace this spirit of innovation. While this may require a cultural shift in your organization — for your IT department especially — identifying innovative team behavior and developing protocols that support their needs will benefit your team and your clients.


2. Design for the Future

Whether you run an insurance agency or a healthcare organization, shadow IT is likely going to be a fact of life for your organization. Team members want to perform well in their roles, but they increasingly want to be able to meet their responsibilities on their own terms — and on their own devices.

When developing a shadow IT policy, consider how you can design a workflow that’s more responsive than it is reactive. This means that you should create a blueprint for your team that clearly lays out how to stay compliant with unapproved programs they’re currently using, as well as how to keep IT and management in the loop about new programs they adopt in the future. By creating a shadow IT policy that leaves plenty of room for growth, you can meet employees where they are while ensuring that your protocols are top of mind in the future.


3. Prioritize Security

Regardless of how your team plans to address shadow IT, security has to be a priority. Thanks in large part to the dominance of the cloud, employees are likely to be conducting professional business that includes proprietary data on unvetted software.

Respecting your employees’ flexibility may be smart, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be firm when it comes to shadow IT security. Clients should appreciate the steps you put in place to ensure that their data is protected, even if their requests have been driving shadow IT throughout your organization. For starters, learn which unofficial programs you can give employees room to use, and which ones have to go through the IT department no matter what.


4. Invest in a Managed Services Provider

Shadow IT has a place in every forward-thinking workplace, but it presents unique challenges to enterprises, academic institutions, and organizations across a range of industries. While you certainly want to encourage innovation among your employees, it’s equally important to control risks and prevent security breaches.

Accordingly, shadow IT should be managed by experienced IT professionals. Whether you need to control the flow of proprietary data to unapproved software or model the risks this trend represents to your clients, your in-house IT department may not have the bandwidth needed for the job. Instead, consider how a managed services provider can help you meet your shadow IT needs at a scale that works for you.

Networking and cybersecurity experts like Turn-key Technologies (TTI) can help businesses navigate the challenges of shadow IT by implementing modern IT solutions that also address potential security gaps. With nearly three decades of experience, and a strong team of networking experts, TTI has the capabilities to help organizations big and small manage the challenges of shadow IT. If you’re curious about how shadow IT is impacting your organization or would like to request a quote for one of our solutions, contact us today.

By Tony Ridzyowski


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