The consumerization of enterprise software can bring great benefits to an organization, and the pricing models of these solutions make them readily available to anyone with an expense account. But for the finance department, there are grave risks in cavalier adoption of finance SaaS solutions.

The use of technologies not sanctioned by the IT department is referred to as “shadow IT,” and it is a growing concern as enterprises work toward integrating systems and realizing the maximum benefit from technology investments while protecting sensitive data.

An Info Security article explains how rampant shadow IT is within finance. Results from a report conducted by Skyhigh Networks, Inc., a cloud security company, indicates that “the average finance employee uses 31 distinct cloud services, including eight collaboration services, five file sharing services, three social media services and three content media sharing services.” It’s unlikely that all 31 of these cloud services were evaluated and vetted by IT.

A recent article on MarketingProfs examines some of the risks of shadow IT, including data and assets potentially being hacked, and a greater likelihood of a regulatory compliance data breach, which can lead to excessive court fines and costs. And security is not the only risk the finance team assumes when engaging in shadow IT.

Many SaaS solutions offer a free trial period during which everything may run and integrate smoothly. But as adoption of and dependency on the solution grows, so does the risk of disruption to the business when updates and version releases change its functionality or integration capabilities. IT should never be introduced to a solution after it becomes mission-critical. Their ability to resolve issues will be compromised if they weren’t involved in the implementation of the technology that failed.

Fortunately, the MarketingProfs article points out that these potentially disastrous outcomes can be avoided. By coming out of the shadows and collaborating with IT on a frequent basis, finance can not only discover technologies that are safe to use, but they can also take advantage of platforms other departments are using to negotiate lower per-user costs.

By extending this regular cadence of collaboration to other line of business leaders, finance can also learn more about data that is being gathered, and how this data can be seamlessly integrated and securely leveraged for more informed financial planning. For example, if sales teams are gathering critical data about clients, such as anticipated margins, finance can reach out to IT to see what tools are available to integrate with sales in comparing actuals versus projections.

The MarketingProfs article stresses that you can have all of the benefits of the latest enterprise software solutions without the risks by collaborating with IT. But with the technical, complex, and often personal nature of these conversations, many communication platforms would fall short of helping these teams arrive at a mutually beneficial decision.

While the written word is often misconstrued, using face-to-face collaboration to discuss technology investments and how they can be integrated fosters the empathy that leads to a successful outcome. Looking each other in the eye also builds the trust required when communicating with other business leaders about the data they are collecting.

Of course, many enterprises are structured with a dispersed labor force, and sitting across the meeting room table simply isn’t feasible from a time and cost standpoint. This is where collaboration tools, such as video conferencing and content sharing, come into play.

With video conferencing, IT can efficiently explain and demonstrate new tech platforms and their features with finance teams. Finance teams can also use video as a face-to-face collaboration medium to establish trust with business leaders before they disclose sensitive data being gathered. ­

WorkSpace Today recently interviewed Polycom CIO Scott McCool on the roll-out of a new ERP system. When asked about the role of collaboration in this project, McCool said:

“Polycom is a large, global business – we have some 60+ locations across the world – and in order to roll out a system of this magnitude you’ve got to have a lot of people on the same page. Now what we found is, with more than a quarter of our workforce being dedicated work-from-home folks, bringing them together and getting them in a collaboration forum where they can share ideas, contribute to the design and implementation of a good system was really, really critical.”

As we progressed through the deployment of our Oracle system, we used Polycom’s video collaboration technologies to bring everybody together in a virtual workspace. In fact, around the launch of the product we had over 300 Polycom staff, external consultants – both functional and technical – working together and we logged over 6,000 hours of video collaboration time during the cutover from PeopleSoft to Oracle. So that efficiency and being able to drive an on-time and on-budget project is really facilitated through collaboration solutions.”

Listen to the full podcast interview with Polycom CIO Scott McCool.

While there are plenty of technologies in the marketplace that finance can leverage, moving away from shadow IT to an enlightened, IT-supported software stack helps to ensure security, reduce downtime and achieve cost savings. When finance collaborates with IT and other business functions using video collaboration and content sharing, they can increase the value of finance to the business.