Should You Contact your IT Department to use Cloud-Based Software?

Dan Lautman | 03.08.16
Topics: Cybersecurity, Outsourced IT - Technical Questions

Admit it. You’re using cloud-based software without your IT department’s permission, am I right?

The practice of using IT services without the knowledge and/or permission of the IT department is called Shadow IT. I’ve seen association professionals use Shadow IT to:

  • Create a microsite quickly with Squarespace or WordPress.
  • Use website heatmap software like Crazy Egg or ClickTale.
  • Store and share files with Dropbox or Google Docs.
  • Or, try out popular collaboration tools like Slack or Asana.
Consult Your IT Deparment.

Why Shadow IT is business as usual for many

Why do people like you use shadow IT instead of going to your IT department for a solution? Usually because you can find what you need online right away instead of waiting for IT to have time for you. Cloud apps are often free or cheap enough to expense—no need for budget approvals. Plus, they’re often easier to use than the solutions the IT department is pushing.

We’ve all developed the self-service mindset when it comes to technology. There’s even a term for it—the consumerization of IT. You might be a shadow IT renegade and not even know it because, for you, it’s business as usual.

In my earlier post about shadow IT, I explained to IT staff why staff chooses their own solutions instead of working with the IT department. I also suggested ways IT can take a more collaborative approach to helping staff select cloud-based apps.

Now, I’m turning my attention to you: association staff who use cloud-based apps without your IT department’s knowledge. You too have a responsibility for the technology you use—both its positive and negative consequences for your organization.

I’m not going to tell you to give up your apps, but I am going to suggest you try a different approach when selecting them. But first, you should know the downside of using cloud-based apps.

Consult Your IT Department Before Downloading Cloud-Based Software

Besides aligning technology with your association’s mission, vision, and business objectives, the biggest concern of an IT team these days is cybersecurity. When you use cloud-based apps that send data outside your network or allow access to data within your network, your actions could expose your organization to data breach risks.

Now, you might know how to safely use cloud-based apps like Dropbox, but your IT department can’t assume that of everyone. I’m sure the employee whouploaded the personal data of 12,000 students to a public Dropbox folder thought they had everything under control too. Make sure you follow your IT department’s policies and procedures especially as they relate to data. And, if you’re not quite positive about how to do something, ask for help.

The IT team wants to be in on selection decisions because they’re charged with finding and managing technology solutions for the entire organization. Unlike the rest of staff, the IT department has (or should have) a holistic rather than departmental perspective on technology. For continuity purposes, they need to know what software and apps are being used throughout the organization. For example, if someone leaves abruptly, will their successor have access to the necessary passwords?

Long-term management of different rogue solutions can be difficult. This problem isn’t unique to IT—imagine every department ordering office supplies from different vendors, how inefficient is that? IT can help coordinate the needs of different departments and help you take advantage of volume purchasing or bulk subscriptions. Instead of settling for the free or cheap tier, you and your colleagues may even get access to the more premium benefits of a higher tier subscription.

A better approach to selecting cloud-based apps

IT can be your ally, if you give them a chance. Think of them as your in-house technology consultant. Schedule time to talk with them about your department’s needs and goals. If you think it will help, share the post I wrote for IT staff that explains why association staff use cloud-based apps and how IT can become a better solution provider and partner to their colleagues.

Help IT staff understand why you’ve chosen a particular cloud-based solution instead of going to them for help. Describe how your productivity and your ability to serve members or meet other goals is affected by the tool you’ve chosen vs. the tool the IT department endorses.

But promise me this: work with your IT department to find appropriate cloud-based apps in the future—tools that provide both the flexibility you need and the oversight IT needs.

Looking for more information about information security? We’ve got you covered. Check out our infographic Is Your Organization Protected From Cyberattacks? for more information on threats to your organization’s security and how you can prevent your data from being compromised. 

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