Shadow IT has become a growing concern for IT teams as business users in the post-pandemic world prioritize productivity over processes. Here’s how low-code solutions can help bridge the gap. Rahul Bhageeradhan, Global Director – Digital Architecture, Kissflow explains how the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the challenge of shadow computing and how IT can regain control , while delivering innovation at pace and scale using low-code platforms.
Shadow IT is now a critical issue facing many businesses. It creeps into organizations as business users seek agile technology to meet their needs without the consent of their IT teams. It can start with a seemingly innocuous action, like using their cellular data to access a work-related document, to something much more serious, like an entire team using an untrusted chat messenger to exchange files, notes, and even confidential conversations simply because it’s faster and more convenient.
If left unchecked, problems associated with phantom computing can quickly worsen over time. It introduces security threats into networks and creates scalability issues. This makes it extremely difficult to maintain a balance between IT’s mandate to manage business risk and the constant demand for productivity and efficiency from business.
While shadow IT has been an inconvenience for IT teams for decades, the proliferation of sophisticated devices and smart applications in recent years has greatly exacerbated the problem, turning it into a considerable challenge. Thousands of employees, especially those who work remotely, may be exposed to security vulnerabilities they know nothing about as they use apps and devices without IT permission and regulation. This is because business users are eager to find quick and easy solutions to their problems and IT may take longer to respond. It is then always possible that the IT solution is not in line with the needs of the users.
On the one hand, IT may feel that most users don’t understand the security issues associated with applications they voluntarily adopt. This is why the IT department may be forced to establish strict rules regarding what software and hardware can and cannot be used.
On the other hand, business users can be frustrated with the responsiveness of their IT department. They may find that the apps they need or the apps they enjoy using at home just don’t win favor with a hardened IT guardian. So they handle things on their own “under the desk” without ever involving IT in their decision to adopt a new application.
The problem that arises is twofold. First, IT has little control over the costs associated with such technology and will always be in firefighting mode to shut down unapproved applications and control leaks after they occur. Second, the disconnect and discontent between IT and the business continues to grow.
80% of workers admit to using SaaS applications at work without IT permission. What IT needs to do to solve this problem is take ownership of user challenges and stay in continuous sync with department heads. Regular, clear communications and asking relevant questions can help keep tabs on what’s going on at a high level. For example, the IT manager may want to know if there are processes and workflows that can be improved for business users. Is a team using an unapproved app like email or a project management tool? The idea is not to close the team, but rather to offer them alternative and secure solutions. One way to do this is to provide users with self-service tools to create their own reports, configure dashboards, or even build applications specific to their challenges.
Low-code can play a strategic role here. It provides a secure sandbox for business users and citizen developers. Its visual programming features provide immense flexibility so that users can create whatever they want without relying on standard applications available in the market.
Applications built using low-code platforms are secure and can scale reliably. A simple application created by a citizen developer can be transformed into an enterprise-scale solution by the IT professional for mass adoption. This encourages widespread use because such an app was built by those closest to the problems the app seeks to solve.
The possibility of using a platform for prototyping and generating a workflow or even an entire application for production promotes dialogue between the IT team and business users. This is the kind of collaboration needed to combat the problem of shadow computing.
The reason shadow computing exists is because of a disconnect that exists between IT priorities and business user needs. In such an environment, it’s easy for silos to creep in, with each business unit hosting its own IT trade show, jeopardizing organizational security and inflating IT costs.
Successful organizations may spot an opportunity here. IT can become a source of empowerment that collaborates with business users and actively supports citizen development. With a Low code platform, an ecosystem can be created where innovation and creativity thrive, where solutions are more agile and responsive to dynamic user needs and market conditions. Only then will digital transformation efforts be truly successful.
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