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This article was written by Doug Hazelman, senior vice president and chief evangelist at CoreView.
Global companies have massively adopted SaaS platforms and cloud applications from last year to better adapt to remote working. This trend has not slowed down as companies shift to hybrid work models in the post-pandemic world. CIOs are so focused on delivering SaaS and cloud tools to their employees that they haven’t stopped asking if people want them. The condensed schedule of tech deployments is starting to weigh on the workforce, as a Cornell University report shows 43% of workers said they spend too much time switching between different tools, up to an hour a day in most offices. case. This statistic is alarming but is also a work in progress. Now CIOs and their IT teams can focus on managing their cloud infrastructure to ensure they streamline administrative operations, mitigate risk, and maximize the return on investment of their technology investments.
The challenges of managing cloud applications must be familiar
Managing applications in the SaaS world is not necessarily more difficult than managing on-premises; however, what has changed is the increase in usage across all industries. Many SaaS applications offer easy enrollments and one-click setups, making it easy for IT to lose visibility and control of their cloud environment. For example, Microsoft 365 has been one of the biggest benefactors of the shift to remote working. IT teams typically own and manage the platform, but Microsoft is continually adding new applications. What started as an online version of MS Office and Outlook now integrates Teams, SharePoint, OneDrive, and several other apps, all with their own administrative interfaces.
Lack of visibility is where shadow IT creeps into many enterprise cloud environments. Every new application connected to the corporate network – whether cloud, hybrid, or on-premises – represents a potential security vulnerability. Cloud applications can allow cybercriminals to easily exfiltrate sensitive information or facilitate risky online behaviors for employees, such as sharing files on an external Box account.
However, shadow IT is as much about finance as it is about security. CIOs and finance managers should be aware that every application connected to the corporate network has a financial impact on the bottom line of the organization. For example, Microsoft Teams use exploded in 2020. Yet many IT managers identified small pockets of resistance within their workforce as people were more comfortable with alternatives like Slack or Zoom. Businesses can allow their employees to work with their preferred tools, provided CIOs know which applications are accessing corporate data and their costs.
Large organizations see departments signing up for apps regardless of the rest of the business, and then that app becomes the standard for the department. IT needs to have appropriate discovery mechanisms in place to understand which applications are being used (and by whom), especially when an application is downloaded for the first time. Having an inventory of all applications helps the IT department know which applications are in use and what employee training needs to be deployed to help employees become familiar with their new tools.
Fight shadow IT with employee buy-in
The root cause of the majority of shadow IT is simple: Employees are unhappy with the company’s digital work tools. People don’t like change, and the past few years have been a seemingly endless transformation for working people. If people have been using an app for a while and are now forced to use a completely different app for no apparent reason, they will fight it. Or, at the very least, be slow to embrace the app. Businesses need to understand this concept and carefully deploy cloud and SaaS applications, especially if they are replacing an application that is currently in use.
A good SaaS management strategy establishes a central digital workplace committee made up of multidisciplinary business leaders who agree on the business applications needed to support their employees. This group enables managers to report their IT needs while allowing CIOs to decide if the investment is needed or if the requested functionality already exists in their technology stack and targeted training will suffice.
The committee’s sole aim should be to provide easy-to-use applications and to help people with their daily tasks. If an app requires unnecessary steps or processes, employees will push it back. The only way to get massive buy-in for new tools and apps is to make sure people need them. New business critical applications need to be better than current options and easier to use.
The IT department also needs to do a great job of “marketing” new applications to gain wide adoption of the applications by employees. The digital workspace committee can communicate the benefits of new applications related to the specific needs of their department. The pilots for the new application should also identify any potential bugs or complications that the application presents to a particular group or department. Done correctly, the digital workplace committee has a group of dedicated supporters right off the bat who can help solve problems and answer questions from their peers.
Now that companies’ digital transformation sprint is over, it is important that they lay the foundation for long-term management of SaaS and cloud applications. Businesses need to gain visibility into their cloud infrastructure to properly manage their cloud environment. Without it, it’s just too easy for departments or individuals to derail healthy SaaS management strategies. Many companies are working diligently on the tech debt accumulated during their rapid transition to the cloud, but, if managed properly, it will be a short-term obstacle on the path to increased business agility, reduced administration. and a significant return on investment.
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