63% of businesses already had technologies managed outside the IT department in 2019. It was termed shadow IT and frowned upon for introducing security risks, and rightly so. The world of technology has undergone a few significant changes since 2019.
The prevalence of remote and hybrid work cultures, the popularity of DevOps, better technology literacy among non-IT employees, and the abundance of machine learning-driven tools, have increased the relevance of cloud-based SaaS applications in the operating models.
Business units are still choosing applications outside the CIO’s and IT department’s purview. But the practice is now being called business-led IT. This post will discuss how CIOs and business leaders can work together to use business-led IT as fuel for success.
Understanding business-led IT
The idea of business-led IT springs from the fact that the ground realities of a specific department – the challenges faced, the opportunities missed, and the time lost while performing a task – are understood best by the executives. The CIO and the IT department may not be in the right position to sanction the best toolset for the marketing team or the sales unit.
Business-led IT proposes that business users’ operational requirements, business needs, and real-time experiences are considered while making IT decisions, purchases, and sanctions.
For instance, imagine the IT department of an organization has sanctioned “SaaS-A” for creating email campaigns. The application has been vetted for security weaknesses and compared with similar tools in terms of pricing and on-paper features.
However, the marketing personnel who use the tool are unsatisfied with it. They find another application, “SaaS-B“, that offers a better user interface and a broader scope for automation.
If, for the sake of efficiency, the team decides to start using “SaaS-B” for email campaigns without involving the IT department or the chief information officer in the process – that would be called shadow IT and the usage would pose a potential security risk to the organization.
But, should the marketing team get on a call with the IT head and explain why they want to use “SaaS-B” for email campaigns, establish the benefits in terms of efficiency, return on investment, and cost-effectiveness, the IT department would have an opportunity to look into the software, vet it for reliability, and ensure that organizational security standards apply to it. Now, that would be an example of business-led IT in action.
The cooperation of business and technology is what has been driving digital transformation across the globe. Organizations need to recognize it, lay down policies to enable and encourage this collaboration, and focus on adaptive risk management strategies.
What is the difference between shadow IT and business-led IT?
There is only one significant similarity between business-led IT and shadow IT – in both cases, the business units choose SaaS solutions instead of the IT department.
- Shadow IT consists of applications, devices, and subscriptions used by employees outside the IT department’s purview. Business-led brings such additions under the organizational umbrella of security and access controls.
- Shadow IT is inherently insecure – it enlarges the attack surface and makes security controls irrelevant. Business-led IT counters this issue by taking a security-first approach in integrating tools and apps brought in by teams.
Business-led IT recognizes the hidden potential in shadow IT and brings that into light by removing the security risks and building vigilance.
How can businesses benefit from business-led IT?
The IT department must work to support the business. The better the alignment of business goals with IT undertakings, the better the results. This alignment is perfected when organizations focus on business-led IT needs.
The IT department ensures the security and availability of network resources and the SaaS applications used across businesses but it’s the business unit leaders that have the insights into the effectiveness of the digital solutions.
Business-led IT ties business operations with IT and ensures that business insights are not lost.
When business users are empowered with business-led IT, they can respond faster to changing market conditions and customer needs.
When insights from business leaders and ground operatives are considered, better decisions can be made regarding IT undertakings and investment.
Increased efficiency and employee morale
Efficiency is the bedrock of business-led IT. It saves time and money and keeps employee morale high – they can use tools for maximum efficiency and feel empowered.
A significant improvement over shadow-IT
Whether a company adopts business-led IT or not, the employees will find better ways to get their jobs done, with or without IT’s approval. Business-led IT reduces the risk of shadow IT by creating an opportunity to introduce, discuss, and integrate tools of their choice.
How can a CIO implement a business-led SaaS usage strategy?
A communication bridge has to be built between the business units and the IT department. The CIO must ensure that representatives of the IT department are easily approachable by other departments when they need to discuss a potential modification of their tech stack.
The goal here is to –
- Ensure that every employee can bring their ideas to the table
- Streamline the IT approval process
- Involve business leaders in the process of choosing the technology that is purchased
- Maintain a steady security posture throughout the process
- Implement robust access management protocols and shadow IT monitoring systems
Does business-led IT increase the risk of data breaches?
Adopting business-led IT is not equivalent to allowing employees to use unauthorized applications or devices. Its whole point is taking the experiences and ideas of business operatives – marketers, salespeople – into account while making IT procurement and technology decisions that impact said departments.
Every piece of third-party software comes with a risk factor. Running a digital business without the risk of data breaches is an impossible task. The goal is to manage the risk and reduce it wherever possible. Shadow IT poses a risk to an organization’s cybersecurity in exchange for potential improvements in business processes; business-led IT takes the benefits and rejects the risk.
Security best practices for business-led IT
- Use shadow IT monitoring tools to identify software that is used within the business but not approved by the IT department.
- Implement strict role-based access controls for all applications used across the business.
- Implement an attack surface monitoring solution to identify and monitor internet-facing assets
- Using a password manager should be mandatory across the organisation.
- Create clear and straightforward business-led IT policies that make secure practices easier for employees
A password and identity management solution like Uniqkey can be the perfect addition to a business’s IT arsenal to enable business-led IT without compromising security.
Uniqkey offers a shadow-IT monitoring dashboard that gives IT admins vigilance into all the applications being used within the organization and provides risk scores for such applications.
Moreover, Uniqkey makes it incredibly simple to grant or revoke role-based access, onboard and offboard employees, and monitor access trails. The tool contains minute features like time-based credential sharing and note sharing.
Overall, Uniqkey makes it difficult for CIOs, IT leaders, and admins to miss anything. With such a tool in the repertoire, it is just easier to trust and integrate new services used by employees.