Shadow IT is a “concerning” practice for the University of Technology Sydney but solving the problem starts with the IT department, according to the school’s deputy CIO.  

Speaking at the Gartner Application Architecture, Development & Integration Summit in Sydney this week, the deputy CIO explained that often the IT department’s own processes make it “too hard” for faculties to procure technology in a traditional way and the temptation to go it alone is too great.

“Our processes, etcetera, get in the way and people go ‘stuff this I’m just going to use the credit card’,” a UTS spokesperson told Which-50.

Shadow IT is the purchasing and using technology without input or approval from the IT or security group. The traditional requirement to consult IT is now often avoided as user friendly technology like cloud based apps and services designed for specific business functions prove too tempting for department heads. 

The practice is particularly challenging for a complex and regulated organisation like a university, already dealing with the integration of new cloud services, according to the spokesperson. 

UTS is upgrading its previously unsustainable IT infrastructure and application management, including migrating much of it to the cloud.

“Your life as an IT manager, there’s a certain amount of complexity. And you don’t reduce it, you just move it from one place to another,” the spokesperson quipped.

It’s a transformation made more difficult by shadow IT, which often creates security and integration issues. But reigning in the practice starts with the IT department understanding their evolving role, according to the UTS spokesperson.

Empower others

“A university is a very complex place and there’s a lot going on and you can’t control it all. It’s about focusing on what [does the IT department] need to control and how do we enable different parts of the environment,” the spokesperson said.

“So we’ve been doing a lot of work to try and put some processes in place where we can actually work with [other departments and faculties].”

UTS has tapped cloud based integration and API management platform Dell Boomi to help integrate the university’s range of platforms and apps. And while the move won’t solve shadow IT, it does help make data available more quickly and lessens the temptation for UTS staff to purchase applications on their own, according to the spokesperson.

The IT department must recognise they do not need to control absolutely everything and are often better served by facilitating the integration of platforms rather than their procurement, the spokesperson said.

“There’s parts of UTS that run their own applications. But traditionally they’ve built custom integration and horrible stuff happens. Which is very risky around data protection,” the spokesperson said.

Now the more user friendly Dell Boomi platform provides at least some common ground for UTS’s data conversations.

“I think it’s at least during up some parts of the overall puzzle when it comes to shadow IT.”

However, UTS concedes that currently its IT is, problematically, “quite centralised”, and there is now a push to empower faculties and other departments.

“We are now thinking of ways of actually giving some control back to faculties and local teams so they can pilot technology and do things in a controlling fashion.”

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