FBI CIO wants to bring ‘shadow IT’ innovations into the light

Gordon Bitko’s biggest problem with “shadow IT” is the term itself. He said it gives the wrong impression, like employees are trying to do something shady, undercover. But Bitko, the FBI’s chief information officer, said he’d actually like to enable employees to more efficiently and effectively innovate on mission-side IT.

Shadow IT is when employees develop technological solutions that haven’t been officially authorized by their organization. And Bitko said there’s nothing wrong with technology-driven innovations that help employees perform their missions. The problem is the lack of coordination from on high.

“I think it’s agents and analysts doing things that they have to do for operational reasons to keep the country safe and secure. And we don’t want to stop that,” Bitko told Federal News Radio’s Jason Miller on the Federal Drive with Tom Temin. “What we’ve found is many people in many different field offices solving a lot of the same problems and using technology as a driver to help that. We’re focused now on trying to still enable them to do those things, but to do it more effectively so that we don’t have the same solutions coming in from multiple different parts of the organization, so we can focus on delivering the highest priority needs for the enterprise.”

Traditionally, in the IT world, more duplication tends to occur on the business side, not the mission side. But that’s not the case at the FBI.

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“The mission side is not necessarily duplication, but different people tackling their own local problems and coming up with similar solutions, so that’s really where the consolidation of effort is really fruitful for us,” Bitko said.

Consolidation of effort within IT is something the Justice Department as a whole is embracing, as DoJ CIO Joe Klimavicz turns to cloud-based solutions and shared services to bring more than 40 component agencies into lockstep on IT issues.

“What we really want to try to do is drive DoJ’s information technology services at the pace of American innovation,” Klimavicz said.

Toward that end, Bitko wants to try to harness “shadow IT” innovations while consolidating larger enterprise services.

“One of the focuses for our office is how do we continue to encourage and actually incentivize innovation in general, but at the same time do it in a framework that ensures we’re doing things that meet our cybersecurity requirements, that meet our records management requirements, that meet our requirements to maintain the privacy and integrity of the information we collect for lawful purposes?” he said.

The Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) has given CIOs some useful tools to pursue those goals, Bitko said.

“Putting a framework on our investments and thinking about them from a risk standpoint, which is something that FITARA also really emphasizes, it really helps us to think about how do we manage those investments,” he said.

FITARA is allowing CIOs to be more tactical when it considers enterprise IT services. For example, the FBI is currently trying to consolidate some of its major IT investments like data centers in favor of some combination of government and public cloud services.

Bitko is also taking a lead from Klimavicz, saying that he will be using shared services more often moving forward.