Shadow IT is a growing concern for higher education institutions.
In 2020, security expert Rahul Kashyap, CEO of Awake Security, stated that while most organizations have one or two approved file sharing applications, individual employees use an average of five file sharing applications.
The pandemic has only added complications to the shadow IT problem with faculty and staff working from home in technology environments that may not comply with IT standards.
In this post, we’ll dive into shadow IT in the context of higher education institutions, including what it is, why it happens, the challenges and risks, and a potential solution for campuses: citizen development.
Shadow IT is the use of information technology systems, devices, applications, and services without approval from the IT department. Faculty and staff often turn to unofficial software or applications when they have a problem and can’t find a campus-provided solution to fix it.
In many cases, faculty and staff don’t have the tools they need or perhaps are not aware of the tools they can access.
For example, imagine John, Director of the Humanities Department, needs to create a form and process to allow students to apply for a specialized study abroad program. John’s institution has provided Google forms, Microsoft forms, and a handful of other easy-to-use form solutions, but John needs something a little more powerful.
Well, John’s friend is really good at this kind of thing. Together, they spin up something custom John can use to solve his problem.
What John doesn’t realize is that this software accesses private student information but the solution doesn’t comply with IT standards and is not properly maintained. Additionally, when John is promoted or leaves the institution, his replacement won’t know how to use this software. There is no documentation, no access to the friend who created it, and no way to maintain or upkeep the solution.
Now imagine this is happening all over a multi-campus institution.
Are you cringing at all the potential issues? You’re not alone.
This large-scale “do it yourself” approach to solving technological problems on campus isn’t inherently bad. Faculty and staff are trying to get things done faster and have the best intentions when they turn to creative solutions to accomplish a task. However, this often puts the institution at risk.
Wait, why do employees turn to shadow IT in the first place?
When faculty and staff are faced with a new problem and recognize that they need a software solution to fix it, they usually turn to IT. This is a great first step! However, most higher ed IT departments are already extremely busy; they don’t have the time to create a new solution.
If IT can’t create a new solution now, the faculty or staff member may ask, “Okay, then when?”
Because IT’s backlog is already so full, (the University of Connecticut had a backlog of 100+ apps!) IT won’t have time to address this new request for months.
It’s important to note that the problems faculty and staff are facing are not trivial. They are problems that cannot go unsolved. Sure, there is the occasional frivolous request to create an app to track birthdays, but many of these problems have significant consequences if they are not addressed.
Think issues like helping a set of students get credit for work they did over the summer, or shaving 2 weeks off of the process to hire new employees.
If faculty and staff can’t get a timely solution out of IT, what choice do they have but to turn to something they can manage themselves?
This problem is often caused because faculty and staff don’t have the tools they need to solve problems on campus. Although most campuses have enterprise licenses to form and survey solutions through Google, Microsoft, and other vendors like Qualitrics or SurveyMonkey, 41% of form interactions are still carried out on PDF-based forms, according to a 2019 study.
What tools do they need, then? We’ll get to this in more detail in just a moment. First, let’s discuss the risks of shadow IT.
The risks of shadow IT to a higher education institution are plentiful. To name a few:
Now that we’ve covered shadow IT, why it happens, and the risks included, how can colleges and universities address it? One solution is to implement citizen development.
Citizen development is the practice of business-led creation and deployment of digital solutions across organizations within IT guidelines. In other words, it’s when business users create and launch applications using tools that comply with IT standards.
A citizen developer can be anyone at your institution, technical or non-technical, who creates business applications. These individuals use no-code software to create applications, all with the proverbial blessing from IT.
The benefits of citizen development include cost savings, agility, and the ability to better manage shadow IT. Read more in-depth about the benefits, risks, and challenges of citizen development here.
Citizen development can significantly reduce, or even replace, shadow IT systems.
The right no-code solution empowers faculty and staff with the features and functionality they need within a no-code, easy-to-use solution, and one that complies with IT’s standards. This gives them the ability to address their problems without leaving the safe bounds of IT-approved technology.
Interested in learning more about no-code solutions? Take a look at this webinar for a detailed dive into no-code software and how to select the right solution for your institution.
IT approval is critical when engaging in citizen development initiatives. IT has the expertise to select a solution for staff that is scalable, secure, and compliant.
Kuali Build, a forms and workflow automation software, helps to facilitate citizen development. Kuali Build meets IT’s high standards for security and compliance, while also empowering business users to create the solution they need. Learn more about how you can get started with Kuali Build today!