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Why it's OK for social collaboration to encourage shadow IT

Matt Kapko | March 4, 2016
The benefits of using social collaboration apps in the enterprise can outweigh the associated security risks if IT professionals strategically monitor and manage them.

The use of unsanctioned social collaboration tools in the enterprise can be a real challenge for any IT organization, but they also often spark productivity and help teams focus. In fact, many CIOs and IT professionals say workers who use apps such as Yammer and Slack can both raise the threat associated with shadow IT and drive productivity gains. Companies must understand the unique strengths and weaknesses of popular social tools if they want to see real value, according to business leaders.

Social collaboration apps compound the effects of shadow IT, according to Brian Kelley, CIO of Portage County, Ohio. When employees "go rogue" and veer away from traditional or sanctioned corporate communication tools, enterprises lose access to important records, he says. "Business leaders can reduce the risks and hidden dangers … of shadow IT by bringing it into the open," Kelley says. "This will require better aligning the business with IT, improving communication with managers, and reducing the complexity of IT procurement." 

"Shadow IT happens when users are not happy with existing solutions the company has put in place and are striving for process improvement and efficiency," says Doron Gordon, CEO of IT service management company Samanage. "The harder it is for teams to communicate effectively the more likely they are to seek out a resolution on their own." 

Social collaboration, shadow IT and freedom of choice

Different teams within a company often have different needs, but workers should not have complete freedom to pick and choose their own tools, according to Gordon.

"Teams should be allowed to identify and solve problems on the ground," says J. Colin Peterson, CEO of J - I.T. Outsource, an IT support firm for small businesses. However, "[t]here should be consensus on the process and the tools that are used. Otherwise it is bedlam."

In fact, Peterson says, IT professionals should insist that their staffs use approved tools. CIOs need to focus on workflows rather than adopt lenient technology policies to appease a minority of people on staff, according to Peterson. "My suggestion is to create a situation that makes it impossible to complete work without the approved apps," he says. "Figure out why you have people going rogue, determine if the benefit realized is real, implement where necessary, and disallow other applications."

Mike Micucci, senior vice president of product management at, says employees are most efficient when their collaboration tools connect directly to business processes or functions. "The end goal is to provide employees with access to a fully integrated suite that enhances relationships between colleagues and builds a more productive organization," he says.

Collaboration tools should reach across departments, offices and regions, according to Micucci. "In my experience, the impact of a social network that unifies the whole organization always outweighs any specific feature preference by one group or another."


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