5 Tips for Crushing Shadow IT

Nowadays, shadow IT is one of the most common challenges in organizations, one that keeps IT specialists awake at night. The advent of new digital solutions and cloud services means that employees are using more technologies that are not authorized by the IT department. Oftentimes your staff don’t even realize the risks these apps pose for the organization.

Today we will go through the main risks of shadow IT and share with you the strategies that will help you crush it.

Risks of shadow IT

Recent statistics show that 80% of employees use unauthorized apps that no one has reviewed and that may not be compliant with your internal regulation policies. But why is it so dangerous?

The use of shadow IT implies that unsanctioned software is not visible to the IT department. This creates major security risks stemming from the lost of control of organizations over their data. Shadow IT may also lead to serious financial consequences for the organization. In fact, studies suggest that shadow IT security breaches cost organizations a total of $1.7 trillion each year.

Below are some of the common risks of shadow IT:

Data loss

When an unknown app runs in your network there’s always a possibility of losing important data. Chances are your IT department will not create a backup for a software they don’t know exists. At the same time, the employees who use it will not think they need it. Therefore, if something occurs, you might lose valuable information with little chance to restore it.

On top of that, you cannot control who gets access to sensitive data that is stored in an unapproved platform. This can lead to multiple problems, including leaks of confidential information.

Conflicts with existing software

Some elements of an unsanctioned software can be incompatible with the existing solution. As a result, your organization may experience performance inefficiencies and system failures.


Most organizations have to comply with specific compliance regulations, laws, and industry standards. Using shadow IT violates these rules and can lead to large fines and legal issues as well as threaten companies’ existence.

Lack of security

If a malicious software is installed into your employee’s mobile device that’s connected to enterprise network, it can pose a major data security risk. There’s a chance the software will be granted all the permissions to access the data on their mobile device.

As a result, the system becomes more susceptible to hacker attacks, phishing and ransomware. Additionally, since unsanctioned apps are not managed by the IT department, they may contain errors and vulnerabilities.

Loss of productivity

This might seem counter logical, since the reason why people resort to shadow IT is to facilitate their work. However, it can deliver completely opposite results.

When users rely on different apps for collaboration, it may cause more harm than good. If different teams need to work on the same document while using different collaboration tools, the same document can be uploaded, edited and resent multiple times causing major time and productivity loss.

Moreover, maneuvering through multiple apps makes you lose focus, taking its toll on productivity.

Strategies that will help you crush shadow IT

1. Determine employees’ needs

Before figuring out the ways to put an end to shadow IT you should understand why your employees decided to use unauthorized apps in the first place. Elimination of shadow IT should be done according to your users’ needs for better functionality.

Is the tool that the organization provides sufficient for your employees to do their job effectively? Is it easy to navigate? Do they know how to actually use it? Or maybe they simply prefer to use another solution out of habit and don’t want to adapt to change?

Answering these questions will help you determine employees’ needs and the required strategy.

Understanding this is the first step towards finding ways to address the needs of your staff with existing software.

2. Know what you’re dealing with

The next step will be to track any unauthorized app or cloud service your employees are currently using.

You can monitor your network and traffic from collaboration platforms. For example, if your company uses Microsoft 365, you can look for traffic from Google cloud, Slack, Dropbox, and other common platforms.

Storing critical and sensitive company data in unauthorized cloud services creates major security risks for the company, giving access to important information to literally anyone.

You can use Cloud App Security to control data travel in your company. It connects with organization’s networks and analyzes traffic. This way you can identify users or departments that use unapproved apps.

3. Communicate on the problem

Some of your employees might not even be aware that the use of certain apps and software is prohibited. When you establish which teams resort to unauthorized applications, you may want to communicate with them to understand the reasons behind their use of shadow IT. Mention its risks and offer solutions according to their needs.

It is also important to inform managers of specific departments that their teams use shadow IT, offer solutions to combat it and take joint action.

4. Offer an app suite for productivity, communication and collaboration

Providing your staff with all the tools they need for efficient work is a key strategy for preventing shadow IT.

When your employees have a platform that allows them to communicate both internally and externally via calls and instant messages, store information and collaborate on documents with their colleagues, as well as integrate any app required for their work – they get a tool that eliminates the need to use any other software.

Microsoft Teams as a hub for communication and collaboration together with other Microsoft apps included into Office 365 suite provides just that. And its seamless integration with Microsoft and third-party apps offers a great user experience, eliminating the need to juggle multiple apps.

Office 365 suite

There’s many reasons why you should use Teams for your business; we outlined 10 of them in this article.

5. Organize change management

Simply providing the staff with the right tools is not enough. Before changing the way your organization works, you may want to organize the entire change management strategy. You need to prepare your employees for the adoption and offer continuous support. This way you can ensure you and your employees are on the same page.

Change management is a complex process that requires taking a series of steps.

a. Vision

You will need to formulate your project’s vision explaining why there’s a need for this change and how the company’s objectives are related to the adoption of a new digital tool.

b. Executive sponsorship

In order to ensure cross-organizational buy-in you will also want to win support from the senior management and establish executive sponsorship. Securing support from top management provides authority and validation to the Adoption Strategy and influences the staff.

c. Governance

Another important step is to set up the right governance. And it goes beyond configuring security settings and technicalities of the use of your digital collaboration tool. You need to make sure you have an effective system of Project Management, Executive and IT Governance that would be in charge of achieving success in different aspects of the transformation.

d. Use cases

Identify use cases and showcase how your employees can solve their collaboration issues with the current digital tools. This is a key step towards persuading users to stop resorting to shadow IT and experience the benefits that Teams is offering.

e. Templates

Your employees will stop resorting to shadow cloud apps once they see the benefits of using templates for collaboration. Microsoft Teams templates facilitate greatly the process of teams creation. They offer a much better user experience, and provide team members with all the necessary channels for communication and collaboration.

f. KPIs

Change management requires establishing and measuring KPIs to have a clear idea about what makes it successful. Additionally, your success criteria will allow you demonstrate risk on investment and risk on non-investment to the executives, ensuring their buy-in.

g. Communication plan

Creating awareness and communicating to employees about the deployment of a new collaboration tool is an indispensable part of your change management strategy. It will help you generate interest and stir up enthusiasm from employees. A detailed Communication plan will allow your users to understand how they can be productive and efficient with the current tool while demonstrating that you are on their side.

h. Training

Shadow IT can be avoided if your users know how to use your existing collaboration tool to the fullest. Offer continuous training to make sure your employees are familiar with all the key capabilities of the tool. There are many different formats for training that you can choose from, making the process more engaging, and thus encouraging active participation.

i. Champions

Peer learning is one of the best ways to learn, so you may want to leverage your Champions to achieve that. Get your most active Teams users onboard for your Adoption Strategy. Encourage them to help their colleagues successfully work with Teams and prevent the use of shadow IT.

Microsoft Teams champions checklist

Learn more about how to build a successful Microsoft Teams Adoption Strategy.

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