Of the many facets IT oversees – desktop computing, network infrastructure, systems, security and others – a very small component of that is serving business. But a paradigm shift has begun in terms of who owns these apps and workflows. Before, it was thought that IT would centrally control all applications, but with the SaaS market expected to hit $110.5 billion this year due in part to hyper-specialization by business function, stakeholders are demanding more say in the apps they use for their own work. 

The rise in these types of apps aligns with an increase in use cases identified by functions – for example, apps devoted specifically to marketing functions have increased 5,233% from about 150 in 2011 to 8,000 in 2020. While some are more so fulfilling a backlog wish list as opposed to identifying necessary pillars of your MarTech stack, for example (your CRMs, MAPs and sales engagement platforms), this clearly shows that stakeholders have a higher need to be involved in the vetting process of the systems they use than ever before. 

More Functional Use Cases Lead to Rise in SaaS Apps

Marketing’s not the only one with growing use cases. For example, if Sales was looking to automatically generate sales and purchase orders upon a change in deal status to ensure timely processing and avoid anything slipping through the cracks, they can’t necessarily wait for IT to get around to building an integration between Salesforce and QuickBooks – they need this to happen now; they’re responsible for driving revenue. HR is another great example – if they take too long to hire and onboard talent, they could possibly lose them. Therefore, connecting your ATS/recruiting and HR hub apps for payroll and documentation (as well as your IAM app for provisioning) seems like a cinch – without integrations and automations between these apps and with the ongoing war for talent in tech, this could mean the difference between having a competitive edge or not and pulls HR away from one of their main tasks: engaging with people.

If IT Can’t Meet Functional Needs, This Creates Shadow IT

If IT doesn’t have the time or know-how to fulfill these growing requests, then Shadow IT tends to bloom. Shadow IT are IT projects that are managed outside of, and without the knowledge of, the IT department. Functions either take it upon themselves to initiate these tasks or hire third-party consultants to do the job for them. However, this can be a huge cybersecurity risk. With employees today having multiple interconnected devices and the ability to download software at the click of a button, things can get out of control quickly. What was initially thought of as a means of taking matters into your hands has become an insecure landscape with data silos and potentially incoherent data (which can get you into trouble with compliance).

How Shadow IT Can Coexist With Citizen Integration

There are, nonetheless, some instances where companies have made Shadow IT work, as with today’s tech landscape, there’s always going to be some application work in an organization – whether you’re a smaller organization that likely doesn’t have a business technology leader and it’s harder to execute things or a $2 billion organization where IT may not have a large budget, which makes it harder to execute at a rate some stakeholders would like.

Create a Team That Specializes in App Coordination

Karl Mosgofian, CIO of Gainsight, a Bay Area-based CS platform, created an applications coordination team in his organization with representatives from functional departments to jointly address their systems, apps and associated challenges with input from admins and end users. By collaborating, these teams can leverage common tools and forge long-term plans for success. 

Like Mosgofian’s strategy, if Shadow IT is going to be deployed, there should be representatives from the functions involved that can inform the external team what the business is. For example, if you hire a consultant to build internal integrations for marketing and sales, an executive sponsor or department head should be on hand to inform the external team of current workflows as they won’t have an inherent knowledge of these processes. 

Treat Shadow IT Like Coopetition

According to Venkat Ranga, Head of Business Systems at Aryaka, a global leader in managed SD-WAN, if you treat Shadow IT like coopetition, or cooperative competition where it’s healthy and makes the most sense for competitors to work together, you can excel the momentum of any projects being implemented as long as there are protocols in place or a Center of Excellence to validate that the projects are deployed and ran correctly to guarantee security and success.

Use a Low-Code Automation Tool to Drive Citizen Integration

The business analysts or people responsible for these processes are the ones who own them and would be best equipped with a low-code automation tool that allows them to integrate critical apps themselves and automate processes between them – like generating automatic sales and purchase orders in QuickBooks or NetSuite upon a change in deal status in Salesforce, or building custom workflows between Marketo and Salesforce that can be triggered based on changes to lead, campaign, opportunity or any other object in either app. (You can also improve the quality of your lead data by enriching it with professional profiles and data about company, industry and product usage from tools like Clearbit, ZoomInfo, Outreach, and PostgreSQL before transferring to Marketo.)

Any integration and automation tool they use has to be compatible with the skills required of those apps (and the experience levels of its end users), which is why a low-code tool that can relieve non-technical users of having to write code while also supporting professional developers by removing tedious infrastructure tasks required in app development would best serve a business looking to curb chaotic Shadow IT and empower stakeholders to do more and automate their work. 

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Pamela Seaton
About Pamela Seaton

Pamela is a journalist and technology enthusiast writing for the growing business systems community.