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May 22, 2018

Approx. 5 min. read

How Shadow IT Threatens Your Internal Communications

Shadow IT may threaten the efficiency of your internal communications. How can you ensure your employees stay aligned with your policies?

Shadow IT may threaten the efficiency of your internal communications. How can you ensure your employees stay aligned with your policies?

Internal communications rely heavily on having the right technologies for sharing and gaining information. If you don’t make sure everyone is using the same products, you risk a shadow IT formulating alongside your regular one. What is shadow IT, how does it threaten your internal communications and how can you minimize it?

What Is Shadow IT?

Shadow IT refers to IT systems and IT technology which are set up and used within an organization without the approval of the organization (or it's IT department). Shadow IT is a major problem for the majority of organizations - up to 71 percent of employees are using apps not officially approved by IT. And it costs an incredible amount of money - some estimates place data loss and downtime cost caused by shadow IT to 1.7 trillion dollars each year.

How Can Shadow IT Harm Internal Communications?

When employees use different communications channels or go “rogue” with their data handling, it may have serious implications for internal communications and your entire company. Using alternative data processing and management may cause leaks in privacy, and it might make data and resources difficult or impossible for others to find. Deep smarts (tacit business knowledge only one or two people in your business have) cannot be spread if knowledge is stored in internal files instead of shared content hubs. If data, knowledge, and resources are not accessible for everyone, you risk losing valuable information once the employee who had it deletes their personal data from your systems.

Using a mixed selection of communication apps and tools can also hinder the performance of your internal communications. If employees set up channels in non-official communication apps, some information may get lost once they shift between the company app and their personal app. If schedules are edited or information is shared on the private apps, it may leave some people uninformed of the changes and lead to knowledge silos growing between people. To make sure everyone who needs specific information will get it, make sure all company related discussions occur in one set app or software, open and accessible to everyone.

Connection between shadow IT and internal communications

What Can Be Done to Prevent Shadow IT?

1. Provide Good Tools and Software

Make sure your regular IT works and the official tools and programs used are good. As long as shadow IT offers an easier and better way to do things, people will not fully adopt the official, approved systems and tools. It’s not enough to just offer good solutions: you need to offer them fast, as well. Especially in large enterprises, the IT department might be slow to respond to the growing and changing needs of users. If the IT department falls behind in delivering solutions which ease the lives of employees, employees will find their own solutions.

2. Train and Transition

When updating to a new system, have a launching event and provide training. Allow some transition time but set up a deadline to when people must have migrated to a new system. Keep your internal guidelines visible to all employees, and list which tools are supposed to be used for which functions.

As devices and software are updated, provide training of the new features. Educating people of the best practices of a software or adding helpful and fun tips regarding the use of the software may encourage people to favor the official tools instead of their own unofficial tools.

3. Learn the Current Skill Levels

In especially larger firms, the culture and communications gap between other employees and the IT department is very real, and it may feel as if people are literally talking two different languages. It is important the IT department understands the levels of knowledge and technological aptitude of the employees so that they are able to estimate how difficult and time consuming adapting to new software will be.

4. Teach Privacy Policy

Stretch training from simple software introductions to general privacy guideline trainings. It’s nearly impossible to eliminate all shadow IT, but make sure your employees are at least abiding the general privacy practices of your company, including password policy and sharing or storing private data, whether the software they use is officially approved or not.

5. Do Your Research

Ask what tools people actually use for communication and storing data. Few companies communicate about the importance of unified IT, and many employees may not even know what shadow IT is, and why it should be avoided.

Find out what are the most commonly opened documents in your company, and what resources people find most important. Then make sure this information is easily available in your current internal content hub. It is important everyone refers to the same documents. For example, if employees have downloaded the files to their own desktop and look at the files from there instead of referring to the document found on a shared cloud, it is possible their information becomes outdated.

See This as Well: Need a Super Power? Get an Internal Content Hub! - Infographic


Make sure the tools and hubs used remain relevant and information is shared in a logical manner. You can conduct internal surveys to audit the relevance and logic behind your internal knowledge storing and sharing system. Remain critical to your official technologies and be willing to adapt, if employees clearly steer towards shadow IT. Remember that as long as shadow IT is easier, better and more suited to the employees, they will continue to use it. So make sure your internal communication tools are relevant, up-to-date and easy to use.

A good knowledge sharing culture ensures people learn from each other and the threshold for asking for help is low. Especially the older generation tends to be slow to respond to technological changes.

To see more good tips on rocking your internal communications, check out our free guide below!

A free guide on how to boost internal communication

Written by

Mia Mäkipää

Mia Mäkipää