There is a saying about water: it finds the path of least resistance to get where it is going. This is also true of people- in particular when it comes to work. I doubt anyone reading this would disagree: when it comes to getting things done we’re all drawn to the path of least resistance. In the workplace we have a name for this: shadow IT. While the concept has been around for a while it’s only over the last several years as technology has become ubiquitous that we’ve seen its escalation.

When it comes to content collaboration, file sharing or document storage, if their employer doesn’t provide easy to use tools that meet their needs, employees not only bring their own preferences, they also bring their own technology regardless of company policy.

This sort of situation can leave IT administrators baffled and lead to many a sleepless night. How can users flout company-issued IT products and services which are usually tested to meet requirements and instead use their own personal cloud drives for business storage and collaboration?!  It turns out that most employees are unware of how company policies are intended to affect the organization; they are just trying to get their work done in the most efficient and effective way.

Unfortunately, once content is outside the confines of the company ecosystem it is challenging to retrieve. Such content can also contain business proprietary information giving disgruntled employees or those leaving for another organization an advantage the company has worked hard to maintain. As a result, shadow IT can have a major impact on the security of a company’s Intellectual Property (IP).

Though it all sounds dire, I promise all is not lost. Much the way the Ghostbusters saved NYC from hostile takeover by Gozer the Gozerian, the ghost of Shadow IT can be managed. Yearly training and best practices sharing via the Human Resources Department, including legally obligating policy forms employees must adhere to can be a stern reminder about your company’s IT policy.

Most users go around company standard IT applications and policies because they are not flexible enough to meet the demand to collaborate and share. Building out a functional change management plan, which also includes input from users, especially the ones using the applications, can build trust and a sense of ownership over current available applications.

While Bring Your Own Everything (BYOx) culture is likely to only get “worse”, advances in Mobile Device Management (MDM), Mobile Application Management (MAM) and Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) technologies provide many options when it comes to safeguarding corporate IP, even allowing administrators to wipe specific containers on devices which are lost, stolen, or when an employee leaves the company – even if that device is owned by the employee.

Finally, for some industries, especially those which involve Personally Identifiable Information (PII), Financial Information, or government classified systems still have compliance and regulatory measures which flat out forbid users from using personal devices and track them when on company devices. Relying on such strict policies constantly is not ideal, but necessary for some organizations, in which case clear and honest communication can assuage the demand for users to “have it their way” when it comes to IT application and device management. 

Happy Halloween!

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