Shadow IT is not a Technical Problem

Social and communication skills are crucial to engage stakeholders, convey technical information, and motivate them to comply with corporate policies. Technical leadership keeps failing to tame “shadow I.T.” We firmly believe that the problem’s solution is erroneously conceived.

Shadow I.T. includes the procurement and use of I.T. assets by a business unit or individual (e.g., user-developed applications) without the I.T. organization’s knowledge or control. While the business can timely respond to immediate needs, this rogue use of I.T. introduces unknown variables. This lack of visibility haunts technical leadership because of its inherent risks (lack of security updates, poor change management, and ill-documented applications) in an increasingly complex matrix of technologies enabled by pervasive low-cost cloud computing.

  • Current strategies that treat these issues as a technical problem that requires just a technical solution are not working.
  • Also, using technical jargon to guide business teams is a bad communication strategy.
  • Worse, blaming business teams for not complying with corporate I.T. policies without listening to their needs creates mistrust and drives them apart, widening the gap between what I.T. teams require and what the business units do to fulfill their I.T. needs.

Internal I.T. organizations can change the game by improving their approach to tackling those companywide issues. In most cases, applying solution design techniques will help better map stakeholders, identify their needs, and design sustainable business-oriented solutions, rather than imposing technical solutions with a low appeal to business units.


Typical solution design frameworks start by identifying the problem’s root cause. The ultimate goal is to extract the fundamental reason behind the issue presented and solve it instead of just addressing the symptoms. Starting with questioning why the problem is happening, the I.T. team should keep asking additional why-questions until it identifies the root cause. Only then should they start working on options for mitigating any pain points by addressing their root-cause head-on.

Also, the technical team should work on mapping and engaging the business stakeholders.

  • Who are they?
  • In which organization do they belong?
  • What is critical to them?
  • How do they measure success?

I.T. teams can learn to become solution designers who can connect the dots. They can then capture, clarify, and address all stakeholders’ concerns, helping them determine and keep their goals aligned. Before sharing their viewpoints, these technical team members enable success by listening to everyone involved in designing a business-focused technical solution. This approach is a game-changer for the I.T. teams’ success in addressing shadow I.T.

Finally, planning for solution sustainability in the long haul should include both technical and business perspectives. How to do that? Technical teams trained in solution design techniques will include a feedback-loop strategy to capture business units’ dynamic nature. Hence, as the business changes, the technical requirements and the solution architecture will evolve, which will avoid shadow I.T. creeping up from the business’s continuous transformation.



  • Share this story: