Shadow IT is a term that IT departments frequently discuss. Yet in Marketing departments, there's not much discussion about it. That needs to change.

So, what is Shadow IT?

If your marketing activities involve the use of apps and cloud software that haven't been signed off by the IT apartment, then you're part of the growing Shadow IT network. Those solutions may make your life easier, efficient, and far more productive. But for the wider business, it can cause multiple issues.

Is your marketing department in the IT shadows?

With so many tools out there from Dropbox for data storage to Evernote for all important meetings, there's a plethora of unapproved programs that you're probably using daily to do your job. It's something which we routinely come across—especially with marketers.

Let's take an example... You urgently need a way to store manage a new clients data. Your options are...

  • Log a ticket with the IT department and wait a number of weeks for someone to eventually install a new company software package.
  • Download the latest online solution there and then.

The choice is obvious.

With the rapid rise in SaaS (Software as a Service) and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) teams can solve their problems swiftly without having to wait. It works. It's cheap. And it can help boost your team's productivity.

But is the solution approved by IT?

The Risks of Shadow IT

Multiple organizations from SMEs to major public bodies could have Shadow IT happening that IT managers aren't aware of. It isn't something which people should treat with complacency though; Shadow IT can have real risks, including:

  • Your marketing data and assets have a greater chance of being hacked by being accessible on unprotected channels outside of firewalls
  • The tools you use potentially breach rules and regulations surrounding data compliance, which can lead to fines and court cases.
  • If the apps you use automatically update, they could suddenly fail to work with your other integrated systems.
  • Different departments could be duplicating technology, meaning significant savings if you move onto a group plan.
  • Lack of help when something goes wrong. (If IT managers don't know the software exists, how would they to know how to fix it?)

The Rewards of Shadow IT

Although risks exists, Shadow IT does have a crucial benefit—it gets you talking to your IT manager. The solution lies in the dialog.

Talk to your IT manager. You might be able to learn...

  • About additional tools. Starting the conversations will enable you to find out what other teams and departments are using to do their job. They might be using something faster, better, or cheaper.
  • Whether other teams or departments already using the same tools as you are. If you're both using the same tools without the other knowing, then why not combine forces? It could mean savings to your budgets meaning more departmental money to spend elsewhere.
  • Other systems or other ways you can integrate with your organizations other systems. Marketers depend on data. Talking to IT can help you find out what other sources of information or insight you may be missing out on.
  • About some recommendations. IT managers might be able to give you recommendations about what's a genuinely better method or software to use to achieve an objective. There are ways to make things more efficient.

Although management of the organization's systems and infrastructure sits with the IT team, there's plenty of opportunity for marketers to do better business through conversations over IT.

By integrating your systems, tools, and data more closely with your business (rather than expanding further away from them), you can uncover plenty of opportunities to work more efficiently.

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image of Ciara Wood

Ciara Wood is a freelance marketing consultant who helps B2B clients with marketing strategy and implementation.

Twitter: @CiaraWood1

LinkedIn: Ciara Wood