Bring Shadow BI in from the Cold

Bring Shadow BI in from the Cold


This is contributed by Ilan Hertz, Head of Digital Marketing at Sisense. 

Chances are, you have shadow BI operatives in your organization. Yes, really, and probably many more than you think. The urge to stop shadow BI at all costs might be strong, but wait! Before you set your phasers on stun, consider the IT ops and business opportunities you might miss.
What’s Shadow BI, and Who’s Responsible?
Shadow BI is derivative of shadow IT, which has been around a long time. Collectively, it’s IT tools, solutions and methods designed and used inside organizations by folks who aren’t necessarily skilled IT workers – or in the case of business intelligence, folks who aren’t data analysts or BI specialists. Instead, they’re IT consumers—business users.
When you think of shadow BI, the key word is unauthorized. Shadow BI solutions are not built, specified, installed or recognized by the IT staff. Therefore, they are not in line with your organization’s data control, documentation, security or reliability requirements.
Who are the perpetrators? Your staff and colleagues. They use modern self-service BI and data analytics tools to get their own answers with unauthorized tools. Why do they do it? It takes too long for the IT staff to provide apps and tools that would help them. Or, data governance and control policies create serious obstacles to solving their problem.
Why Not Squash Shadow BI Like a Bug?
Shadow BI is the latest in a long line of arguments between IT staff members and business users. The argument for more or less centralized IT control has been waged for decades  . But now, technology and how information consumers use it is tipping the scales in favor of less centralized control.
Reality Check for IT and Business Decision Makers
Like it or not, shadow BI is here to stay. Users in 3Comments
line-of-business groups have taken control of the corporate credit card. They are using it to buy their own IT systems, tools and services.
The sophisticated data analytics tools they buy have become an ingrained part of most business units. These apps and services are designed to make analysis simpler and more accessible to business users, who are becoming more data-savvy. When faced with a serious obstacle, they acquire their own IT solutions wherever they can.
There’s no sign of this trend waning. What’s a conscientious IT staff to do?
Three Ways to Deal with Shadow BI  
There are several routes to dealing with shadow BI. First, you could go into denial and walk away. This is not a good option. There are too many real risks and costs involved.
Next, you could treat shadow BI as a threat to your organization and use serious assets to stop it right now. Shadow BI poses hidden costs as well as security and compliance risks. But “stopping shadow BI” is a time-consuming and costly process. You might not have the means to bring it down
Finally, you could put shadow BI to work as an engine of innovation and productivity. This option seems to be a keeper. But it isn’t simple and requires a careful look at what it takes to achieve the goal.
Why Shadow BI Is Appealing to Business Users
Users who practice shadow BI are not digital rabble-rousers. It poses definite hidden costs and risks. But it can also become an important source of IT solutions that match the day-to-day needs of business users. They value shadow BI because it: 
Is set up by and for the folks who need it most—business users When users are the ones who find and build their own solutions, both the solutions and tools they use provide exactly what’s needed to meet their goals.
Quickly solves problems and removes obstacles. Employees turn to shadow BI when they can’t get the solutions they need quickly enough or when they must avoid restrictions set up by the business.
Gives employees the tools they need when they need them. As a result, users spend less time looking for workarounds and more time getting things done.
Is less intimidating than solutions authorized by IT staff.Shadow BI solutions use plain English and operating principles that are clear and obvious to business users.

OK, that makes benefits from the user point of view clear. But why would a business consider accepting outsider IT? It provides IT departments with the opportunity to increase employee efficiency, control costs and avoid data security breaches.
Shadow BI Can Add Value to Your Operations
If managed carefully, shadow BI can actually help your company. How? By making shadow BI part of the larger IT effort and getting users and IT pros to see mutual benefits of working together. Simple? No. Worth the effort? Definitely.
Opportunities to Achieve Extra Value
There are two steps to improving the shadow BI situation at any organization. First, get your freelance developers, IT managers and business decision makers to work together, Then, consider the processes needed to keep your data safe and your company compliant.
These are the kinds of opportunities we’re talking about:
Developing a culture of productivity and resourcefulness.When you treat business users as allies, not rebels or enemies and bring your indie developers into the IT fold, good things happen.
Former shadow BI developers often show initiative and ingenuity as they overcome obstacles on their own. When they do, they are more productive and efficient and often take ownership of the task without IT participation. It makes sense to put these talents to work,
Reassigning technical and IT resources to internal-facing, often-ignored tasks.We all know that the IT to-do list never ends. With more local users building their own solutions, there’s more time for IT pros to do those important but never-completed tasks. Or there’s more time to design and deliver high-value services to internal business groups.
Providing business users with access to pre-approved solutions or tools All of these time- and money-saving efficiencies depend on easily available apps and tools that business users can use to answer local data analytics questions.
Some companies implement controlled, self-service options for their business users. This lets the IT staff control data and user access and helps users quickly find or create local solutions they need.Other companies implement mobile device management (MDM) tools to secure and control user devices.
Increasing the number of IT services while maintaining data governance and security. Including former shadow BI solutions in mainstream IT legitimizes the demand for and supply of formerly hidden solutions and tools, in a governed environment. When IT assets are easy to find, their risks and costs are easier to identify and mitigate.
Making communication, education and data security ongoing themes of IT support. Supporting indie developers with data security and other information can help you avoid the risks and costs of unsupervised solution development. More informed business users make it easier for IT pros to look after basic data quality, security and governance.
Lower labor and operations costs, more productive employees and lower compliance risk. These are the potential benefits for companies willing to look beyond the negative image of shadow BI. Is your IT establishment willing to try something different to bring shadow BI into the mainstream?

Link: Bring Shadow BI in from the Cold