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Going Rogue, The Shadow IT path to disparate systems

Shadow IT: Going Rogue in Nonprofit IT

The number one reason we receive from Nonprofit Executives (501(c)(3) & Associations) today for exploring a new enterprise software system is the need to eliminate disparate databases. And, perhaps the number one reason for these silo databases may be that your staff has “Gone Rogue” to procure them. In this article, I outline the statistics on why users obtain disparate applications and how you may avoid this transpiring in your nonprofit today.

Going Rogue: Shadow IT Applications In Nonprofits 

In my software evaluations, I always ask what systems they use as an organization, department, and individual to handle their jobs. And, on average I see that most organizations have a minimum of 6 disparate data vaults being used by the organization. And, countless other applications being used by various departments and individuals that aren’t even known by the key executives.

How about your nonprofit? Think about the databases that you use for one moment. Your nonprofit 501(c)(3) or association likely has at least six of the following programs don’t you? What do you utilize for a Donor/Member Database, Email Marketing System, General Ledger, Website Content Management System, Event Registration, Conference Application, Abstract Management, Sales Automation for Exhibits or Booth Sales, Social Networking, Survey Management, Advocacy and Government Relations and possibly Learning Management System (Distance Learning). It’s probably hard to recall them without taking a pause and possibly even looking it up for many. 

The Pathway to Database Hell Is Usually Paved with Good Intentions

So, how does this transpire? As the saying goes, “The pathway to hell is paved with good intentions“, may apply here.  I can assure it’s not a nefarious attempt by the staff to defraud the organization. Nor, it the acquisition of disparate database systems over the course of time malicious. Rather, it usually takes place over the course of many years. It starts out with good intent by an employee (who may or may not be there any more), and has the expectations of solving a problem. And, now this trend has burst out of the closet and is waltzing around the corporation, leaving IT departments rushing to do damage control.

We like to refer this in our office talk as “Going Rogue”.

Using  recent history as our guide, the acquisition of “Rogue” solutions is getting even worse. No doubt, we are bombarded with various consumer applications which are “free” and easy to be downloaded from various “markets” whether it is available from Android, Apple, or Microsoft. The consumer market for “applications” is growing and individuals are bringing them into the workplace.

The Reasons for Non-Approved SaaS 

Below you will find a graph outlining some reasons for this trend:

Shadow IT Rogue Applications at Nonprofit 501(c)3

Gartner, one of the world’s leading information technology research and advisory companies, has written about this topic before and calls this new wave of applications infiltrating the offices around the nation, as “Shadow IT“. Shadow IT describes IT systems or solutions used within an organization without the approval, or even the knowledge, of corporate IT. This is often referred to as the consumerization of IT.

How Do You Avoid Your Staff Going Rogue? 

So, how should organizations approach the “Shadow IT” or “Going Rogue” challenge?

According to Gartner, and many other IT consulting firms agree, the solution does not lie in eliminating it, but in finding ways for IT to better respond to employee needs. Here are a few of Gartner’s suggestions:

  1. Raise internal IT responsiveness and throughput in order to keep pace with business users’ requirements.

  2. If security requirements outweigh employee productivity, allow line-of-business managers to bring data into their shadow apps so they can utilize the information in a way they want to work.

  3. Provide support for shadow apps by looking at the customization, integration, and security options so that business users can generate their own custom reports and access real-time data.

Continually Check Before Your Staff Jumps to A Rogue System 

At a minimum, we believe that regular annual assessments of your technology is a good starting point for most. In many cases, you organization needs a trusted outside consulting firm who can help determine requirements and challenge the regular way of doing business today.

Let’s face it. We all have many hats to wear in most organizations. Nonprofits are no different. At the end of the day, most employees are just looking for a way to do their job better so that they can go home to life after their work day ends.

Ultimately, CEO’s and Executive Directors in your nonprofit are charged with providing leadership and keeping the ship on the right course. Most experts would agree that that an integrated database (not necessarily an all in one) is important. However, most executives simply don’t know what applications, databases, and technology is being used in the day to day life cycle of their organization.

If you would like to visit more about this topic or would like to discuss how we have helped others address this situation, please contact us. Until next time, keep SmartThoughts in mind.

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