Shadow IT and Knowledge Management: How to Cope

 In Blog, Transformation

man-316893_640Shadow IT is undoubtedly one of the top concerns for CIOs today. As B2B technology lags behind consumer grade tools, knowledge workers are “going rogue” using services like Slack, Yammer, and Dropbox instead of the “approved” solutions provided by IT.

Research shows that over 3/4s of IT decision makers are aware of shadow IT at their company. The reality is shadow IT is growing and shows no sign of stopping.


Employees today are focused on their business goals, if IT can’t provide the tools to help them achieve their goals, then they will “go rogue” – it is that simple. So, what is the answer?

3/4s of IT decision makers are effectively burying their head in the sand – this way, it seems, they are not standing in the way of productivity. But, there is enormous risks associated with this approach in terms of information security.

Further, while services like Dropbox, Box, Slack and many others are certainly more usable than say a traditional file server, the initial productivity gain is offset by the creation of yet another information silo. When it comes to knowledge management, shadow IT offers little more than temporary relief from the pain of enterprise inefficiency.

Knowledge Management And Shadow IT:

behavioral-economics-and-big-dataEffective knowledge management is a huge challenge for IT functions today. Research has shown that 68% of organizations operate 5 or more storage repositories making relevant data impossible to locate. Factor in the shadow IT solutions and you can be sure the real number is much higher. One Docurated customer even admitted to utilizing 24 secret storage tools before they implemented our solution.

While this example is extreme, it is not that far removed from the reality at enterprises today as the pressure on knowledge workers to perform far outweighs any concerns they have about security. With a credit card and a browser, anyone can purchase low cost software subscriptions and integrate with other systems in a matter of minutes.

Ignoring the role of shadow IT in knowledge management will not solve anything. Instead, the onus is on IT leaders to bring these systems under the IT umbrella. Without any centralized IT oversight, organizational silos become fortified, cross-functional collaboration is stymied, and security risks grow.

To solve the issue, IT needs to accept the era of command and control is over and reimagine their role within the organization. IT leaders must clearly understand the business goals that shadow IT systems were introduced to meet. Essentially, shadow IT must be brought out of the shadows by meeting with other functions and working towards a mutually beneficial agreement on each shadow IT system. Productivity and strategy must be considered alongside compliance and security.

A New World

bulb-40701_640 (2)Shadow IT and knowledge management have become interlinked. There is so much valuable enterprise knowledge being locked away in shadow systems. Both issues must be tackled simultaneously.

Through a two pronged approach, IT leaders can solve the dual challenge presented by knowledge management and shadow IT. Firstly, there needs to be a cultural transformation driven by IT where any secrecy surrounding shadow IT systems is removed. At present, everything is suffering – compliance, security, collaboration, productivity are all being hampered by shadow IT. IT needs to open the lines of communication with other business functions and look to incorporate shadow IT systems without impacting security.

Secondly, when it comes to knowledge management, IT must accept that data storage will always be heterogeneous and introduce a knowledge management solution that spans all content systems – shadow IT and otherwise. The system must make all content silos searchable, providing users with a single access point to all enterprise data.

Content Management Limitations

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAWXAAAAJDNmNzIwZjVlLWFlMzEtNDA1ZS1iYTVmLWExMDFhZjgzM2ZkNgKnowledge management has evolved considerably over the last decade or so mainly as a result of the explosion in data creation – put into perspective by former Google SEO, Eric Schmidt who pointed out that “every two days we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up unitl 2003.”

First-generation knowledge management solutions were content-management-based solutions which were essentially a box to put your files into. Amazingly, this type of system which requires manually uploading your files to yet another enterprise location is still quite popular despite the fact that it is about as blatant an act on silo creation as is humanly possible.

Unsurprisingly these systems have failed spectacularly leading to major inefficiencies and a situation where knowledge workers spend up to 50% of their time trying to locate relevant information. With so much enterprise data to wade through, employees don’t even know what system to search let alone the file name or folder. Factor is the various shadow IT systems in operation and you get a clear idea of the challeneg that awaits today’s knowledge worker every time they try to find relevant information.

Given the limitations of content-management-based systems, enterprise search solutions can offer a viable solution to the knowledge management issue. These solutions are search tools that layer over existing data silos allowing users to locate content regardless of where it is stored. With heterogeneous data storage here to stay, enterprise search tools can help you eliminate the “where did I leave that file” issue. However, the one area that so many enterprise search solutions fall down in is their relevance ranking.

The Future Of Knowledge Management and Shadow IT

To solve today’s knowledge management challenge, companies need a relevance-driven search solution that uses input signals from many sources and includes deep crawling of content and metadata sources, relationships and taxonomies extraction, and real-time change detection – to provide a holistic picture of relevant information. Companies also need visibility into how content is being used. Only by learning how content is being used can the enterprise learn from and improve on their mistakes. Without a feedback loop, invaluable tribal knowledge gets lost.

With so much content available, it is difficult to pinpoint the exact piece of content for each situation. By leveraging content metadata and other usage inputs, next generation knowledge management solutions should be able to provide companies with content recommendations for each situation better than any human ever could. This functionality would typically be associated with sales enablement, but is becoming an essential part of knowledge management.


The future of knowledge management is a complete solution that brings together the most vital components of enterprise search, content management, and sales enablement to provide a solution perfectly attuned to today’s highly sophisticated and content heavy enterprise landscape and helps IT leaders tackle the shadow IT problem.


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