Everything You Think About Shadow IT is Wrong
Shadow IT sounds like a scary term, as it conjures images of security breaches. But managing the best of shadow IT can bring innovation and low-code software can help.
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Shadow IT has been hotly debated in the tech industry for many years now, and is still an area of concern for IT leaders—it instills a fear of loss of control/security in them and leads to unregistered costs. In fact, research by Everest Group found that it comprises 50 percent or more of IT spending.
What if I told you that this loss of total control is actually the best thing that is happening to IT? It sounds crazy at first, but hear me out. There’s no doubt that the landscape of business is changing in all sectors, that the changes drive deep into the core business and the tectonic shift is ongoing and fast. This creates a significant challenge for IT as the business demands an ever-increasing level of agility and speed, but without a sacrifice of security or quality. It doesn’t seem fair. Something has to give. This is why you need to take a page from the sharing economy and actually embrace the good parts of shadow IT and while putting in guard rails to control to ensure that it fits your strategy.
First, let’s talk about how we got here.
Driven by an ever increasing need to change and create solutions quickly, three hot employment/staffing trends are contributing to this massive, unexpected jump in shadow IT:
- Employees downloading their own productivity apps: Companies are flooding the market with tools that help people get their day jobs done – and employees are downloading them by the second. These impact various channels, starting with spreadsheets and emails, going through mobile applications, social media, internet of things, and all sorts of data collection mechanisms.
- Workforce getting more tech savvy: By 2020, more than half of the workforce will be digital natives, who are more confident with technology and more demanding of solutions that meet their needs exactly. If the company doesn’t offer them, they are not afraid to choose their own.
- Talent pool shallowing: According to Forrester, the US economy will be short about 500,000 developers by 2020. With a lack of staffing, it is difficult to address every one of the business' needs and employees need to do whatever they can to increase their productivity.
Why Shadow IT Is Actually a Good Thing
IT projects are well-thought-out journeys that are led by highly skilled and scarce resources. That’s why IT projects end up being a bottleneck for business transformation, regardless of how big the organization or IT department is. As the backlog builds, choosing which projects to work on becomes the key to success. Here’s the problem: it’s hard to tell which idea/project is going to make a business impact. In fact, with long development cycles, a good idea can turn into a not-so-good one between the start and end of a project. With ultimate success being measured by the business outcome, this is a big issue for both IT and the business.
That’s where Shadow IT comes in. If you let the business experiment on their own, they can try many more ideas out. Some will be okay, others will fail miserably and few will strike gold. With such a low cost and time investment, the ones that fail or just work okay are not a huge drain. That leaves the golden ideas. And those are the ones that can then graduate from shadow IT to being the full-scale projects. Not only does this reduce the business risk, it also gives you projects that already have user feedback and a big headstart on design.
That’s the good part of Shadow IT but to take advantage of it you still have to mitigate the bad parts.
IT Departments Can “Combat” Shadow IT by Embracing Low- and No-Code Platforms
Low-code platforms provide companies like Southwest Airlines, Sprint, and Google a great opportunity to provide line-of-business professionals with the flexibility to create their own apps and processes while still maintaining the quality and security standards desires. Because these platforms give developers a sandbox to do what they wish — but ensure IT managers maintain governance and security — no- and low-code software enables IT organizations to address shadow IT by cultivating unlikely allies, which are the business users themselves.
According to research from Forrester, the low-code development market, is set to exceed $20 billion by 2021. While IT managers debate whether or not democratizing app dev in such a way causes shadow IT, the explosion of the low- and no-code market shows that companies are finding ways to maintain proper levels of security and governance without eliminating the speed and accessibility advantages that employees expect.
There are a few key attributes that make low- and no-code platforms a good go-between for IT and business users:
Despite concerns on the contrary, these platforms enable users to securely access data, seamlessly collaborate, quickly accomplish tasks and create and disseminate targeted reports. While security concerns (along with executive buy-in) were ranked as the top concern of using no-code in our state of business apps report, almost half of no-code builders said that IT was fully supportive of their efforts (47 percent); 17 percent even reported that business departments and IT were working better together as a direct result of building no-code apps.
Productivity and Efficiency
In a recent report on the state of business apps, we found that no-code builders create no-code apps primarily because these apps better fit their needs than other market solutions (68 percent) and so they can make changes more quickly to apps as their workload and requirements change (61 percent). Developers have the ability to update apps frequently and in real-time to keep pace with rapidly changing business and customer requirements.
Low and no-code platforms are designed for simplicity, offering a way to create and deploy easy-to-use business apps without the coding skills of a pro developer. They are accessible across all generations of workers as well — 43 percent of Quick Base builders are members of Gen X (age 37-52), 43 percent are Millennials (age 18-36), and Baby Boomers (age 53–71) represented 14 percent of no-code builders.
In essence, low-code provides the ability to take the best parts of solutions associated with shadow IT — productivity and freedom — and allows companies to organize this data and place proper governance and security where needed so the right users have access to the right applications. This provides opportunities that were previously unavailable — it can minimize the creation of poor applications, or provide visibility to great apps that are currently difficult to manage because it is unknown how they were created.
In short, no-code platforms offer the ability to move at the speed of business, without losing oversight and control as with Shadow IT. The business gets the solutions they want. IT gets the peace of mind it needs.
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