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We have all heard the term 'Consumerisation of IT'- the specific impact that consumer-orientated technologies can have on enterprises as they are adopted by end users, often bypassing an enterprises' IT department.

This issue is not new, and generally started with the rise of the feature phone and smart phone as people started to use their own devices rather than the voice & text only devices issued by enterprises. The trend has continued to evolve as technology has evolved, to a point where one of the biggest challenges faced by enterprises today is associated with employee's use of cloud based services.

There are more cloud services available than ever before, and the number of cloud services used in the workplace continues to increase at a phenomenal rate, spanning both sanctioned cloud services (aka sanctioned IT) and shadow cloud services (aka shadow IT)


In a recent IDG survey it stated that of the respondents:

  • 90% use consumer services such as Skype or LinkedIn of which 46% was shadow IT
  • 70% use file sharing sites such as Dropbox of which 38% was shadow IT
  • 57% use enterprise social networking tools  of which 40% was shadow IT and
  • 53% use CRM and Customer Service tools of which 23% was shadow IT

Both sanctioned IT and shadow IT take advantage of the cost benefits of the cloud as well as the feature sets not available in legacy applications, but there are also risks involved in the uncontrolled use of cloud services

SkyHigh Networks, a cloud service discovery and security business, publish a quarterly report which analyses the amount and types of cloud services used based upon 1.75m users across Europe. The headline? - 'This quarter, the average number of cloud services in use at each company grew 8% from previous quarter to 782 services. That number is 10-20 times higher than IT executives expected; especially considering that many of these cloud services are adopted by employees acting on their own, without the knowledge of the IT department' with collaboration services leading the way

It was also clear from the report that employees are also experimenting with finding the right service to use. On average an employee uses 23 different cloud services and multiple services within each category, so there appears to be no one dominant service. The main categories included Collaboration, Development File Sharing, Content Sharing, Social Media and Tracking (assets, devices and people).

The plethora of services in itself is not an issue, but the way individuals use those services raises concerns with:

  • in-secure and often compromised account details,
  • no understanding of who owns what data when using free versions of the cloud service, and
  • sensitive data often being shared through public links etc.
  • potential regulatory and legal issues (location and security of sensitive data)

However, in fairness to the use, I don’t think any user deliberately sets out to establish shadow IT systems. Often people use these systems out of depuration or just a desire to work more effectively than many internal sanctioned tools allow, especially when it comes to collaborating with people outside of their organisation.

It is clear that there are huge benefits to allowing employees to use cloud services and also in allowing them to have a choice of alternative  services, however, clearly understanding how your business will be affected by their use, selecting the right services and setting appropriate policies is key to their safe and effective use.

About this author

Digital Practice

CGI's Digital Practice

At CGI we work with clients to define the right digital transformation journey through to achieving its effective delivery. Our experience of delivering complex, mission critical systems ensures the strategy and roadmaps we develop and implement are realistic, achievable, and bring value to the organisation. ...


Great blog Danny - its amazing how much 'Shadow IT' we see in organisations of all sizes, especially when it comes to analytics!

Submitted by Matthew Napleton on 05 December 2014

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