3 Ways SaaS Shadow IT Can Help IT Add Value for the Organization

While shadow IT—and specifically SaaS shadow IT—has become ubiquitous, there are at least three ways SaaS shadow IT can add value for the organization.[1] Unlocking the potential value of SaaS shadow IT, however, requires that IT can accurately and precisely identify not just what LOB SaaS applications are being used, but how they’re being used.

SaaS shadow IT can help the CIO and their teams:

  1. Identify early trends in SaaS usage across departmental silos
  2. Determine the potential extent of value provided
  3. Create dialogue on policies and perceived “needs gaps” between IT and LOB

What’s the extent of SaaS shadow IT use?[2]

According to Stratecast, “you can expect upwards of 35 percent of all SaaS apps in your [organization] are purchased and used without [IT] oversight.”[3] It seems that SaaS shadow IT is an open secret in most organizations. Moreover, these are not all LOB users. That same survey shows IT employees are more likely than LOB to adopt non-approved or non-policy-compliant SaaS apps.[4]

Why are employees “going rogue” with SaaS application use?

The causes underlying SaaS shadow IT are varied, but survey data shows the most significant factors are confusion regarding organizational SaaS usage policies and employees’ desires to do their jobs better.[5] And in this data, we find keys to how SaaS shadow IT can be leveraged to benefit the organization.

If employees “go rogue” because SaaS policies are imperfectly communicated and implemented, that can serve as a baseline for improving communications. And if employees are using unapproved SaaS applications because they believe they need them to do their job better, that can help IT identify early trends that might benefit other teams and departments.

In all cases, IT has a unique vantage point and a leadership role to play—it can provide insight and leadership that crosses departmental or divisional silos.

How can IT identify the trends in SaaS usage?

In order to add the value promised above, it’s critical to see what SaaS applications are being used, and in what way, via precise usage metrics and adoption rates.

Simply knowing the list of web pages that have been loaded is not particularly meaningful—it will result in numerous false positives. However, identifying those pages that are both loaded, and extensively interacted with on a regular basis, can point towards those SaaS applications that are being the most enthusiastically adopted.

When the pages are further normalized to “human-friendly” names rather than unintelligible strings of URL characters, an actionable signal emerges from the noise.

Obtaining this near-forensic precision quickly can be done with new approaches to SaaS usage. One such approach is through Asset Vision. It offers the usage analysis needed to enable IT to identify SaaS shadow IT trends, and enables SaaS license optimization modeling to further add value for the organization. To see how Asset Vision may help your particular situation, contact us. For a self-demo of Asset Vision, please register here.


[1] According to a recent survey by Stratecast, more than 80% of all respondents use non-approved SaaS applications in their jobs. “The Hidden Truth Behind Shadow IT: Six Trends Impacting Your Security Posture,” p 4, November 2013, Frost & Sullivan.

[2] For the purposes of this article, we’ll define “SaaS shadow IT” as those SaaS applications used by employees of an organization for the organization, without the formal approval of IT or without being obtained in line with IT policies. It’s outside the scope of this article to consider personal SaaS application use on organization time (such as watching YouTube videos sent by friends while using the organization’s network).

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid, 4-5.

[5] Ibid, 6-7.