ChatGPT Just Officially Became the Top Unauthorized App Used Secretly by Workers, According to an Unsurprising Study

ChatGPT’s meteoric rise has supplanted dozens of other apps to become the leader in shadow IT rankings, according to a report from expense management firm Productiv.

Productiv analyzed “more than 100 billion application usage data points across nearly 100 million SaaS (software as a service) licenses” from 2021 to 2023, according to the report. It identified shadow IT as unmanaged applications detected through employee expense reports, network monitoring tools, or the use of Google single sign-on.

LinkedIn, through its Business Solutions products, was the number one unauthorized app for the first two years of that period. ChatGPT doesn’t even appear on that list until 2023, when it immediately took the top spot.

While ChatGPT is popular, it is not unique. The report notes that “nearly every app here offers, or is likely to offer, some form of AI functionality.”

“SaaS sprawl,” the term for the uncontrolled accumulation of applications over time, has become a major (and costly) problem in enterprise IT management. Companies that do not periodically inventory the software used by employees can complicate their digital topography and end up paying for unnecessary, unapproved or redundant licenses.

Statistics on unused software licenses tend to come from companies that sell inventory management tools. A survey by application management company Zylo published earlier this year put the average cost of unused licenses at $18 million per organization per year, with small businesses averaging $2 million and largest companies averaging almost $127 million.

The related problem of shadow IT, where employees use applications that have not been formally authorized by an IT and/or security department, is also widespread.

According to Productiv, the average enterprise SaaS portfolio size has dropped from 374 in 2022 to 342 in 2023, a modest but significant decline as organizations look to consolidate services and control spending. The percentage of those applications that Productiv identified as part of the shadow IT category has remained around half since 2020, but saw a slight decrease to 48% last year.

Jody Shapiro, CEO of Productiv, told IT Brew that the successful slowdown of SaaS expansion can be attributed in part to executives shifting their focus toward cost control over the past two years, as well as the creation of committees. of technological governance in many organizations.

“Historically, SaaS portfolios have been growing and growing and growing…This year, the size of the portfolio has decreased a little bit, on average,” Shapiro said. “And really, that’s an indicator that more of these companies are starting to get a handle on things from a governance standpoint: ‘We can’t let this be a free-for-all.'”

ChatGPT likely rose to the top of shadow IT charts because employee interest in the technology has far outpaced organizations’ efforts to establish AI governance, Shapiro added. It probably helped that generative AI has use cases in virtually every department or function, as experts say one of the biggest drivers of shadow IT is employees trying to do their jobs more effectively.

“What’s happening is the technology is really interesting and really powerful in some of these cases,” Shapiro said.

“If you deal with security or legal issues with these companies, you’re going to have real heartburn if (generative AI) is just adopted organically, because you’re going to have real questions about what happens if we put the company’s data into ChatGPT or some other medium.” “. other tools,” he added. “Is there a risk that the data could end up being used or could resurface somewhere else?”

This report was initially published by IT Brew.

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