Motivations towards Shadow IT

A logical place to understand the problems posed by shadow IT is to understand why the practice exists in the first place. One must know the users’ needs and motivations for getting external cloud infrastructure solutions instead of obtaining resources that are found in-house.

Business Pressures

In a competitive global business environment, employees are increasingly being measured on results so they will do whatever it takes to meet their business goals. Mainly due to the slow approval processes for new software and inadequacies of approved software, business users end up using shadow IT systems. Stratecast conducted a survey in September 2013 and found that most business users overwhelmingly turn to non-approved applications for one reason: they need to get their jobs done by gaining access to right tools as fast as possible.1 Thus, IT organizations must respond quickly to their users increasing demand.

IT’s Image Problem

The need for IT responsiveness grows daily due to business pressures. However, most IT organizations have been slow to respond to business user needs, forcing business users to build new applications or enhance existing ones on their own to leverage new and ever-changing technologies such as mobile and social networking.  Users often complain that, no matter what they ask for, IT tells them either that they have to use the functionality in the existing systems portfolio or that they have to wait until the current multiyear rollout is finished before the problem can be addressed. For most business users under constant business pressures however, this is simply an unacceptable answer.2 IT departments appear to be sluggish bureaucracies with no real motivation to respond quickly to end users’ needs.  This view may be true but in most cases, IT departments themselves are struggling with resource problems. Most IT operations are under-staffed and are constantly putting out major fires, which may be attributed to poor IT management and lack of understanding of users’ needs. In some cases, IT departments are considered cost centers and not as innovation centers or integral parts of the value chain.3 These kinds of perceptions contributed to the business units taking things into their hands. 

Lack of Clear Guidance

One of the biggest reasons shadow IT flourishes within organizations is due to the lack of a definitive standard governing the devices and applications that employees can and cannot use.4 In September 2012, Nasuni Corporation5 conducted a survey of more than 1,300 corporate IT users with regards to shadow IT. The resulted showed that almost half of all respondents do not know their company policy on accessing file-sharing services, indicating that these companies either do not have policies or have not effectively communicated the policy to the users. Communication from the IT department, or the lack of it, is also a factor in the growth of shadow IT. When IT cannot articulate its services and costs as simply and clearly as cloud providers can, it drives business units to adopt those technologies and in effect undermines IT’s efforts to centralize and standardize.1

Governance Issues

In many instances, IT governance and standardization efforts do not appropriately accommodate business needs. These efforts sometimes serve to impede business processes and the company’s ability to compete, which prompts business units to initiate shadow IT projects. These projects typically exhibit low risk because of their very limited scope and tight alignment with business unit needs. They also exhibit quickly realized ROI, partially because the initial investment does not address lifecycle project, support, or infrastructural costs.6 In the long term, however, these projects will have harmful consequences on the organization.


[1] Stadtmueller, Lynda, ed. The Hidden Truth Behind Shadow IT: Six Trends Impacting Your Security Posture. Rep. Mountain View, CA: Frost & Sullivan, 2013. Print.

[2] Sapir, Jonathan. The Executives Guide to Enabling Citizen Developers and Bringing Shadow IT into the Light with Salesforce1. N.p.: n.p., n.d. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 14 May 2014. Web. 22 July 2014.

[3] Fanzo, Brian. “Shadow IT: What It Is, Who’s Doing It, and Why.” Web log post. CEO Ticker. IO, 31 Mar. 2014. Web. 2 July 2014.

[4] Bradbury, Neal. “The Smart MSP’s Response To Shadow IT Threats.” Web log post. MSPmentor Blog. Intronis, 27 Feb. 2014. Web. 12 July 2014.

[5] Shadow IT in the Enterprise: Confessions from More Than 1,000 Enterprise Users. Tech. Natick, MA: Nasuni, 2014. Print.

[6] Bayan, Ruby. “Shed Light on Shadow IT Groups.” Web log post. TechRepublic, 9 July 2004. Web. 19 July 2014.

Featured Post

Motivations towards Shadow IT

A logical place to understand the problems posed by shadow IT is to understand why the practice exists in the first place. One must know the users’ needs and motivations for getting external cloud … Continue Reading