My first blog was about the risk of shadow applications. It showed that fighting shadow IT is a difficult task that often prompts a lot of opposition from businesses. However, that is not the case everywhere. In my day-to-day work, I also come across companies that have found good solutions for shadow IT. These organisations let businesses develop their own applications, with IT as the supporting party.

This approach – also known as citizen development – means that organisations no longer have to contend with hidden applications and are working with transparent IT architecture. So what is the smart approach? Here are my five tips based on my practical experience.

1. Embrace innovation and renewal

Let’s start with how to approach shadow IT. You can choose to fight shadow applications by setting strict rules. In my opinion, that will have very little chance of success as your organisation will probably not have the capacity to enforce those rules. You would also be slowing down innovation and renewal. Your colleagues working with a business app in their field often know exactly what they need. Their knowledge of IT may also secretly be better than you think. It is therefore better to facilitate the use and development of applications, for example with a low-code platform. This prevents users from looking for alternatives outside your field of vision.

2. Define clear frameworks

Although you want to allow businesses room for innovation, it is wise to communicate clear guidelines. You want applications to comply with the laws and regulations and not get in the way of existing processes. IT should not have to enforce all this independently. That’s why you have to make businesses aware of the possibilities and risks. Clear communication of the frameworks makes the users jointly responsible for applications. What you want to achieve is that users think for themselves, seek advice from IT and can then buy or develop applications themselves.

3. Keep an eye on your application landscape

An IT department must always keep a complete overview of its application landscape. In fact, IT is the only party capable of doing so. You do this by scanning your network and logs, which allows you to check if any new applications have been created. You can then use that information to start a conversation with users. What exactly do they need? It will show that you are genuinely interested in the business as well as tell you exactly what users need. In the end, you want them to come to you of their own accord, of course. You can then point out that they already have applications with the same functionalities or actively support them in the development of other applications – ensuring that you never lose control of your application landscape.

4. Be strict when you need to be

By playing a facilitating role, you can motivate users to use applications within the frameworks you have set yourself. Yet that does not mean you can sit back and relax, because users of all companies tend to push the boundaries. You therefore need to look for a way to periodically check that the guidelines are being followed and implement a strict policy in case the applications are not compliant. One example is that an application has been purchased from a supplier who has not arranged their data exchange properly. They may also be unclear how the application works. You want to prevent people from developing an application and then leaving the organisation – and taking all the knowledge with them.

5. Take updates and SLA’s off your employees’ hands

Let’s be honest –  when people purchase an application, they do not want to concern themselves with supplier SLAs, updates and maintenance. They just want the application to work. And that’s exactly what businesses want when they buy an application from a supplier. IT should therefore always offer to take over these tasks from businesses. IT has the knowledge to compare suppliers and make sure that suppliers meet the agreements, allowing you to monitor the performance of applications and give businesses a helping hand.

One environment for application development

As a company, you do not want to inhibit the drive for innovation from the business side. You need to support your staff with appropriate tools and clear guidelines. This stops the business from looking for alternatives that you are not aware of. You can provide support using a low-code development platform that allows users to build their own applications. Such an environment strengthens the collaboration between IT and the business and allows innovation to happen more quickly. This not only makes things easier for the business, but it also ensures that IT stays in control of all applications. And you can be sure that the right security and governance are in place immediately.