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The term “Shadow IT” refers to apps and devices used at work that operate outside your company’s sanctioned policies and protocols. Shadow IT takes many forms, like conversations on Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts, Gmail or Skype. It can include software from Excel macros to cloud-based data storage apps such as Dropbox, Google Docs and Evernote. Or collaboration spaces like Slack, Asana and Wrike. And then there are devices: USB sticks, smartphones, tablets and laptops within your network that you have no control over.

Robert J. Moore, CEO of RJMetrics, relates how companies like Slack and Dropbox craft their pricing models to encourage rapid proliferation. One day, a few of his engineers were using whole rest of the company was using it. He said, “We reached a point of no return and paying for it was pretty much our only option.”

The hidden dangers of shadow IT When users on your network adopt apps and devices outside your control, protocols weren’t followed, systems aren’t patched, devices get infected without people knowing it and data breaches happen… As a result, confidential information can be exposed, accounts taken over, websites defaced, goods and services stolen, and precious time and money lost. Not only that, you end up with siloed information in unknown places, data compliance issues and missed opportunities for bulk pricing.

The obvious solution would be to crack down and forbid useSlack, then all the engineers, then the of all but company-approved devices and apps. Unfortunately, that tends to slow things down, stifling productivity and innovation. Bringing your shadow IT out into the light.

Obviously, burying your head in the sand won’t make the problem go away. Here’s what you can do to not only take control of the situation, but actually use it to drive innovation and agility at your company.

Cut loose the “control” mentality. It’s no longer feasible to simply ban certain apps. If you don’t give employees the software they prefer, they June start using their own. They can easily access a vast and growing variety of apps, all without your help – or control.

Recognize the delicate balance between risk and performance. Evaluate risk on a case-by-case basis. Then take control of high-risk situations and keep an eye on the rest.

Foster open communication. Get employees involved in creating intuitive policies. You can turn them from your greatest risk to your greatest asset by levering their input and ownership of protective protocols. This helps everyone maintain security while keeping practical needs for performance in mind.

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