The global pandemic fundamentally changed workplace policies for almost every industry. Office-based work was suspended, and WFH practices became the norm. But with the earliest signs of recovery for many sectors, companies are starting to look towards getting back into their normal operations, or integrating the lessons of the WFH paradigm moving forward. However, one IT challenge can make this process difficult: shadow IT.
So how can your company transition back to “clean IT” after the shadow IT practices that come with work-from-home arrangements? Creating policies and active monitoring are some of the many ways you can make the shift from shadow IT to “clean IT” easier, but another method is by actively integrating the benefits of shadow IT with your “clean IT” practices. That’s not to say that you should allow shadow IT practices altogether – but your company can benefit by studying how its advantages can work for you.
Why Transitioning Back To Clean IT Is Necessary
The sudden shift to WFH practices caught many companies off-guard, and in their scramble to adapt and make sure that their businesses are still running, compromises needed to be made. For these companies, these compromises resulted in an overall loosening of the restrictions normally placed on IT systems at work – and this made shadow IT practices extremely common, but also necessary.
By itself, shadow IT – the use of applications, software, or devices not authorized by your IT department to do work – isn’t a bad thing. In a post-COVID world, more and more workplaces have seen the benefits of being more flexible with how their employees do their work, as that is one of the biggest assets of shadow IT.
However, “clean IT” is still the best IT system for workplaces to follow, as it’s much more secure, has extensive oversight, and is compliant with the rules and regulations of the company. Going back to “clean IT” will be a crucial step that companies will run across sooner or later, and it’s in the proper handling of this transition that can determine the overall privacy, security, and efficacy of their IT systems in a post-COVID world.
Failure to transition cleanly back into “clean IT” doesn’t just leave your company at risk: it can also negatively affect the overall IT infrastructure of your business moving forward. Working on these transitions varies from business to business, but there are some core considerations that you should keep in mind when moving away from shadow IT.
Steps To Take When Transitioning From Shadow IT
Keep in mind that the following list is not an exhaustive checklist of all the things that you should be doing once your company makes the transition from shadow IT – but they are core components of your IT strategy that can help minimize risk and maximize benefits from its widespread use.
Understand Why Shadow IT Occurs
Shadow IT is never an isolated case – many factors can push your employees into shadow IT practices. For many companies, the reason why there’s such a large influx of shadow IT users now is that it was the best way for them to get work done without having access to company hardware. However, some cases can be a bit more niche, like employees who have the capability of bringing company devices home with them.
By understanding what exactly pushes your employees to engage in shadow IT, your IT team has a much clearer picture of the next steps to take to ensure that the transition goes smoothly. Aside from that, it’ll also give them an overview of the possible risks and complications that can arise from moving away from shadow IT, and come up with steps to deal with it accordingly.
Involve Your Employees In The Discussion
At the heart of shadow IT lies your employees: the main users, benefactors, and risks of using the system. No matter how effective your clean IT is, if your employees aren’t at the very least engaged and brief in its use, the likelihood that they’ll continue using shadow IT is quite high. Especially after the relative flexibility and freedom caused in WFH by the pandemic, expect to see some reluctance to transition to cleaner yet “stricter” IT practices.
In this situation, pushing back against your employee’s wishes – or worse, not involving them in the discussion at all – can lead to significant pushback with the transition to clean IT. As the largest group of shadow IT users in your company, you must gain their full cooperation during the process. One good way to get on their good side is by assuring them that while shadow IT use isn’t particularly safe, their use of the system during WFH isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Learn What Parts Of Shadow IT Worked For Your Company
One reason why shadow IT is an ever-persistent issue with many IT systems is that while it carries plenty of risks, there are distinct benefits to letting your employees conduct their work with their own devices, software, or systems. You may even find that these benefits have contributed to an overall increase in productivity around the workplace, or contributed to employee morale.
Understanding what parts of shadow IT use works for your operations can help you integrate these practices into your future operations, but with the added benefit of having the protection of a clean IT security system. Keep in mind that shadow IT may be different for your organization depending on your own internal routines and the exact hardware that you have access to.
Integrate Shadow IT With Normal Security Protocols
For some companies, integrating shadow IT practices may heavily factor in future plans for operations. In this case, integrating shadow IT with normal security protocols is an essential step that your IT team needs to take to ensure that no complications arise in the eventual transition to purely “clean IT” systems. One thing to note is that the majority of shadow IT systems can be made part of your company’s normal operations – but it requires an extensive amount of planning, cross-checking, and authentication to do so.
In some cases, the cost of fully integrating shadow IT without significant overhead expenses to your existing IT systems can be too much for your bottom line to support at the moment. Finding a security or software provider who can help you transition through this process can significantly lower these expenses, and provide your business with the peace of mind that it’s still being protected even with the inclusion of shadow IT.
Because of the wide-reaching effects of WFH practices caused by the global pandemic, it’s fine if the transition to “clean IT” takes a while. Being careful about every part of the process is still the best way to make sure that your eventual IT system has the same protections pre-WFH regulations.
Can Shadow IT Be Fully Eliminated From WFH Practices?
One question that employers who choose to stick with the WFH practice have is whether or not shadow IT can ever be truly removed from WFH. If your employees are properly briefed on the benefits of “clean IT” and regular checks are done with your IT team to ensure that they remain compliant, it’s possible to greatly reduce the chance that shadow IT occurs in your company.
Completely eliminating shadow IT is also possible with extensive monitoring, but remember to respect the privacy of your employees. Restrictive IT practices will make them less motivated to get the work done (even in WFH setups) and in the worst cases can even result in an overall lowering of their performance. If you’re looking to completely eliminate shadow IT from your organization, the best way to do this is to resume in-office work since you have better control over devices, connections, and allowed software.
Improve Your Organization’s IT Systems And Procedures With Abacus Managed IT Services
Shadow IT has become a reality for many businesses because of the pandemic, and it will likely be an important concern for companies as operations go back to normal. While there are advantages to continuing shadow IT practices with a company’s normal operations, the risks associated with its use are simply too dangerous for continued use. By integrating the advantages of using shadow IT without its risks, your company will be able to seamlessly transition from a COVID WFH work routine to working once again in the office.
With extensive experience in the maintenance and development of IT systems, Abacus Managed IT Services can help your business make the jump from WFH setups back to your normal office routines, or help secure your WFH practices if you decide to integrate them into your company post-COVID. Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help you.