Leveraging Low-code to counter the looming threat of shadow IT

Leveraging Low-code to counter the looming threat of shadow IT

Shadow IT has become a growing concern for IT teams as business users in the post-pandemic world prioritise productivity over process. Here’s how Low-code solutions can help bridge the divide.Rahul Bhageeradhan, Global Director – Digital Architecture, Kissflow discusses how the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the challenge of shadow IT and how IT can win back control, while delivering innovation at pace and scale using Low-code platforms.

Shadow IT is now a critical issue faced by many enterprises. It creeps into organisations as business users look for agile technology to meet their needs without the consent of their IT teams. It can begin from a seemingly innocuous action, like using one’s cellular data to access a work-related document to something far more serious, like an entire team using an unapproved chat messenger to exchange files, notes, and even confidential conversations simply because it is faster and more convenient.

Left unchecked, the issues associated with shadow IT can rapidly compound over time. It introduces security threats into the networks and creates scalability issues. This makes it extremely challenging to maintain a balance between the IT’s mandate to manage enterprise risk and the business department’s constant requirement of productivity and efficiency.

Why shadow IT thrives

While shadow IT has been a decades old inconvenience for IT teams, the proliferation of sophisticated devices and smart applications in recent years has greatly exacerbated the issue, turning it into a considerable challenge. Thousands of employees, especially those in a remote work setup, may be exposed to security vulnerabilities that they know nothing about because they use apps and devices without the IT’s sanction and regulation. The reason this happens is that business users are eager to find quick and easy solutions to their problems and IT may take a longer time to respond. Then there’s always the possibility that the IT’s solution is not in line with the users’ needs.

On the one hand, IT might feel that most users do not understand the security concerns associated with applications they adopt of their own accord. That is why IT may be forced to lay down strict rules with regards to what software and hardware can and cannot be used.

On the other hand, business users might be frustrated with the responsiveness of their IT department. They may find that the apps they need or the apps they like to use at home are simply not winning favour in front of a hardened IT gatekeeper. So, they manage things on their own “under the desk” without ever involving IT in their decision to adopt a new app.

The problem that emerges is twofold. One, IT has little control over the costs associated with such technology and will forever be on a fire-fighting mode to shut down unapproved apps and control leakages after they happen. Two, the disconnect and discontent between IT and business grows ever larger.

Tackling shadow IT with Low-code

80% of workers admit to using SaaS applications at work without IT approval. What IT needs to do to tackle this is to own the users’ challenges and stay in continuous sync with department heads. Regular, clear communications and asking pertinent questions can help keep tabs on what’s happening at a high level. For instance, the IT leader may want to know if there are processes and workflows that can be improved for business users. Is any team using an unapproved app like a messenger or a project management tool? The idea is not to shut down the team, but rather to provide them with alternate, secure solutions. One way to do this is by providing users with self-service tools to create their own reports, set up dashboards, or even build apps specific to their challenges.

Low-code can play a strategic role here. It provides a secure sandbox to business users and citizen developers. Its visual programming features provide immense flexibility so users can build whatever they want without turning to off-the-shelf apps available in the market.

Apps built using low-code platforms are secure and can be scaled reliably. A simple application built by a citizen developer can be turned into an enterprise-wide solution by the IT professional for mass adoption. This encourages widespread usage since such an application has been built by those who are the closest to the problems that the app seeks to resolve.

The ability to use a platform for prototyping and generating a workflow or even an entire application for production encourages dialogue between the IT team and business users. This is the kind of collaboration necessary to combat the problem of shadow IT.

Bridging the gap

The reason why shadow IT exists is because of a disconnect that exists between the IT’s priorities and the business user’s needs. In such an environment it is easy for silos to creep in with each business unit running its own IT show – placing the organisation’s security in danger and inflating IT costs.

Successful organisations can spot an opportunity here. IT can become a source of empowerment that collaborates with business users and actively supports citizen development. With a Low-code platform, an ecosystem can be created where innovation and creativity thrive, where solutions are more agile and responsive to the dynamic needs of both the users and the market conditions. Only then will Digital Transformation efforts truly spell success.

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