Case Study: NSF Engages Employees Through Pilot Projects

Shadow IT is a term that National Science Foundation (NSF) Chief Information Officer Dorothy Aronson hears regularly when meeting with peers and others in government.

It’s a challenge that NSF and other agencies are grappling with governmentwide as employees seek to use innovative applications and user-friendly devices that have not yet been approved by the IT department.

As the principal adviser to the agency’s director and other senior managers on all matters involving IT, Aronson sees herself as an enabler who is charting a path for employees to introduce innovative ideas that improve how they work.

This case study highlights the challenges that NSF faces when it comes to managing shadow IT and how the agency is addressing that issue through microprojects. At NSF, microprojects allow the agency to test new technologies and processes and determine how those efforts can and should be expanded. The goal is to bring the kinds of expert tools that the private sector uses into the government to help energize the workforce.