Shadow System

Shadow Systems

Shadow systems are “systems which replicate in full or in part data and functionality of the legitimate systems of the organization” (Behrens and Sedera, 2004). It is a term to describe information which was developed by end users to support specific needs on the functional silos inside an organization. Shadow systems are primarily developed as Microsoft excel spreadsheets, Microsoft access database/reports/forms or similar tools (Strong and Volkoff, 2004 cited in jones et al 2004). However, it may be developed by an experienced software developer and the reliability of a solution coming from the IT/IS department.

In shadows system there is lacks of documentation, testing and are not secured as a formal engineered solution. In terms of costs, shadow systems are less expensive; it takes less time and is more flexible to develop. However, shadow systems are easier solutions to develop comparing to Enterprise System (ES) which receive extensive testing, documentation for support and greater reliability of data. The major cost of a shadow system is associated with the replication effort and subsequent redundant workload and data integrity and quality problems (Behrens and Sedera, 2004).

Framework of Shadow Systems

Figure 1: Factors causing shadow systems in an ERP system context (adopted from Behrens and Sedera, 2004)

This framework illustrates that shadow systems arise due to a construct termed the “gap”. This gap is divided between the requirements of the various stakeholders within an organization. In this gap there is a combination of causal and intervening conditions. In causal conditions it is a set of events that influence the creation of the gap which include nature of the people, business process and how technology performs when ES is implemented. On the other hand, intervening conditions which alter the impact of the causal condition in the form of resources and support for the shadow system.

Demerits of shadow Systems

The major issues are:

  • Poor design
  • Scalability
  • Documentation
  • Lack of testing
  • Security
  • Liable of errors
  • Backups
  • Inconsistency of data

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) improves the company’s business processes. ERP is an enterprise system meant to integrate data and support all major functions of an organization. The role of an ERP system is to create a dynamic and immediate flow within the company increasing the usefulness and value of the data. Integrated system gives benefits to an organization in the form of cost reduction, improves business process, heightened productivity and increased the agility of the organization (Davenport, 1998, Markus and Tanis, 2000 cited in Jones et al, 2004).


Shadow system may also become a threat for the organization in the form of customers, staff or suppliers as it hold the information about companies’ confidential data which can be modified easily. Eliminating shadow systems from the organization helps to solve the compliance issues within the organization. Other threads involves in shadow system is waste of money and time. Maintenance will increase the cost of the organization and to enter the information in parallel takes a lot of time which is not good for business process. Shadow system works in excel, spreadsheet extra some people find it difficult to work on this software’s which is not good for the organization. In shadow system lack of documentation are required to complete the work, security risk is on high because whoever write the documentation knows the important information about the organization.



Jones, D, Behrens, S, Jamieson, K & Tansley, E 2004, ‘The Rise and Fall of a Shadow System: Lessons for Enterprise System Implementation, pp. 1-15, viewed 21 July 2013,


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