As IT loosens its reins, trust, communication, and thoughtful planning are paramount. Observations about Citizen Development and business-IT alignment with QuickBase, Inc. CEO, Allison Mnookin, and Gartner VP and Research Director, Mark Driver.
Digital transformation is officially on everyone’s radar. According to an upcoming QuickBase survey, 45 percent of CXOs say it’s a top priority this year. “This is a time of increased business agility through digital operations,” said QuickBase, Inc. CEO Allison Mnookin at last week’s EMPOWER 2016 conference in Nashville.
The application ecosystem is broadening, requiring an increased need for integration and a united front for IT and lines of business. “Citizen development is mainstream and the average large firm is running 66 applications,” said Mnookin. Today, over 90 percent of citizen developers have no professional training, and by 2020, an estimated 60 percent of all fast-mode application development projects will be completed outside the boundaries of formal IT.
These are exciting but also demanding times. Fifty percent of enterprises without formal control and management of citizen development policies will encounter substantial data, process, integrity, and security vulnerabilities in the next few years. Data in particular presents a major challenge. “Ninety-five percent of CIOs believe that data is changing the way their organizations do business, but 64 percent also recognize they aren’t making optimal use of that data,” said Mnookin.
The pace of technology isn’t slowing down anytime soon. “Innovation comes in fits and starts, and right now we’re at a point of rapid acceleration,” said Driver. “Beyond digital transformation, there’s algorithmic transformation and the frontier of cognitive computing and deep learning.” Driver estimated that by 2018, 10 percent of employee interactions will occur without a user interface. When a Georgia Tech class can go through an entire semester without realizing their TA is a robot, that’s taking your Amazon Echo to a whole new level.
The workplace is certainly not immune to these changes. In certain industries like media, every aspect of the business has already been digitized. “Think about this,” said Driver. “When you work at a movie theater now, there’s no fiddling with a film projector. You stream everything remotely.”
A trend toward consumerization is putting IT in the hands of the average employee. “In 2005, everyone carried around a bunch of devices that were for personal or professional use, but not both,” said Driver. “Today, we have BYOD because no one wanted to do that anymore.” Digital evolution has also resulted in people working more collaboratively. “No one’s sitting in an office all day, attending one 3-4 hour meeting with 50 people. You have shorter, burst meetings with a few people, taking all your information with you from context to context,” said Driver.
Whether we like it or not, the bottleneck aspect of IT is going away. The need for constant innovation and the speed of cloud computing coupled with the amount of legacy resources that must be maintained means that IT has to empower others. “Today, anyone can use the infinite capacity of the cloud to derive insights in seconds that would have taken IT weeks before. We all have more data than we know what to do with, and we’re just hoping to dip our fingers in the stream and grab hold of something interesting as the water rushes by,” said Driver.
As a partnership between IT and lines of business, citizen development is one significant result of the democratization of IT. But some projects are better suited to citizen development than others. Driver cited projects that are situational, short-term, non-mission-critical, isolated from core IT systems, and can be built with a simple architecture as good candidates.
“Some organizations can successfully move from these low risk sweet spots into higher value danger zones, but I see a lot of driving without car insurance going around,” said Driver. “A lot of organizations aren’t doing proper QA or adhering to regulations. Basically, they’re executing now and asking for forgiveness later.”
Driver shared several ideas for forging a stronger and more productive relationship between IT and business units. “IT makes the mistake of trying to govern when it doesn’t have the power to enforce,” he said. “Saying, ‘thou shall use Sharepoint – period’ does not work. Look at your business partners as equals and engage rather than corral.”
In terms of new citizen development implementations, the purpose should be transparent with no ulterior motives. “Both IT and the business unit should contribute resources and agree on self-imposed restrictions,” said Driver. “For example, will the application be brand-facing or not, will it be subject to a regulatory environment or not? Start small and prepare to revisit decisions as the goalposts change.”
Finally, IT trust can make or break a collaboration. “One of the most frightening things a parent can do is give the teenager the car keys, but the benefits of having a kid you don’t have to cart around outweigh the risks,” Driver said. “You train them, you outline a roadmap so there are no surprises, and then everyone just does the best they can.”