In Praise of Shadow IT

Your poor employees. At home they are social media superstars, posting ironic witticisms and heartfelt sentiments to an audience of adoring “followers” and “friends.” Their iPhones are stuffed with the latest apps. They’ve embraced Google in every aspect of their life, from Google Analytics for their American Idol fan page to Docs for their PTA petitions. But, once they swipe that key card and settle into their cubicle, they are stuck with clunky tools two generations old, and that are, frankly, kind of embarrassing.

Enter “Shadow IT” – the back alley of your computing environment – you can still use it to get where you are going, and it may even provide a shortcut, but it’s not paved or well-lighted. Shadow IT happens when IT departments allow (or even enable) employees to use technology that is not provided nor officially supported by the IT department. Long viewed as a weed to seek out and destroy via the strangling embrace of tough Corporate IT Policies, today in the midst of the “Enterprise 2.0” and social media hype cycle, its is increasingly viewed as a creative, “crowdsourced” way to innovate.

We recently conducted an extensive survey of thousands of stakeholders in the information environment to find out just who loves Shadow IT the most. Here is what we found. [1. Note: No real surveys were performed, just really extensive imaginary ones.]


  • Opposing counsel. The lawyers representing the other side in litigation really, really love your willingness to tolerate – or even promote – Shadow IT. After all, it makes life so easy for them.  Inconsistencies between what corporate IT policies say and what actually happens are especially useful, as they can really help them raise useful questions about the integrity of your whole program. Its especially great when your own lawyers don’t even know about Shadow IT, so they repeatedly tell the court that they have produced all relevant ESI, even though they haven’t. That really makes opposing counsel happy.
  • E-discovery services firms. Unmanaged, uncontrolled IT that your own lawyers don’t even know about can really help to complicate and drag out the e-discovery process, adding up to bigger bills from your service providers. That makes them pretty big fans of Shadow IT.
  • Your own IT department. To be fair, this may be more of a love/hate relationship. Hate because it makes their jobs seem easier than they are, and love because well, it kind of does make their jobs easier.
  • Outside counsel. Shadow IT = more legal liability = more litigation = more billable hours  = happy outside attorneys.  Pretty simple formula.
  • Consultants like me. The information governance mess created by unmanaged Shadow IT invariably creates a huge problem that has to be cleaned up, often in a very short time – what’s not to like about that?
  • Your employees. Shadow IT is often cool and useful and lets employees do their jobs better. That makes them happy too.



One comment

  1. Pingback: Weekly Top Story Digest - March 9, 2011 | ComplexDiscovery

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