From Shadow IT to Citizen Development, A Force IT Can No Longer Ignore

Sep 23, 2015
6 Min Read

There have always been people in companies who didn't have the patience to wait months for IT to implement their requested solution. So they created their own. Raw as it was, it got the job done. In the past, these people were viewed as rogues of Shadow IT and considered loose cannons. Today, it's a completely different circumstance.

According to Wikipedia, Shadow IT is a term often used to describe information-technology systems and solutions built and used inside organizations without explicit organizational approval. It’s also used, along with the term "Stealth IT," to describe solutions specified and deployed by departments other than the IT department.

Shadow IT was a force CIOs and their IT departments regarded as a threat to the business that recklessly stepped outside of the careful controls and plans developed by IT. But that's not the case today as citizen developers have become common.

Citizen developers are team members who create single use, department or enterprise wide business applications using no code – low code solutions like Excel or cloud-based low-code rapid application development platforms like QuickBase to solve business problems.

With overburdened IT departments and innovative changes and advancements in technology, smart CIOs have learned that citizen development is an asset to both IT and the business in serving the needs of its customers. Now viewed as partners to IT rather than adversaries, these citizen developers are a feasible alternative to meeting the needs of the company.

It’s not just a name change that’s taking place here. There are a lot of other forces that have come into play which have changed the way IT departments feel about these more digitally-savvy team members.

What’s Changed?

Supply and demand has made it nearly impossible for stretched IT departments to meet the ever increasing demands of its business partners within the timeframes required. When business units request a solution to a problem for response to a need in the marketplace, they want it now not six months or a year from now when it’s been fit into IT’s schedule.

Better alignment between IT and business units. In the past, the IT department was a department totally separate from any business unit. It was typically a fairly small group of people who reported through a totally different hierarchy. That’s not necessarily the case today. In many companies, members of the IT team are distributed throughout the organization within business units to enable relationship building and a more intimate understanding of the issues they face.

More Millennials in the workforce. Millennials, the largest generation in the US, were the first generation who had access to the Internet during their formative years. Millennials are more connected to technology than previous generations and a quarter of Millennials believe that their relationship to technology is what makes their generation unique. While all generations have experienced technological advances, the sheer amount of computational power and access to information that Millennials have had at their fingertips since grade-school is unparalleled. (15 Economic Facts About Millennials – PDF) This access drives them to pursue solutions to problems using the technology tools they are so familiar with.

Democratization of IT has leveled the playing field with broad access to technology available to more people. New technologies and improved user experiences have empowered those outside of the technical industry to access and use technological products and services. At an increasing scale, consumers have greater access to use and purchase technologically sophisticated products, as well as to participate meaningfully in the development of these products.

What CIOs Can Do

As the marketplace continues to move at a hectic pace, more citizen developers will surface to solve business problems. There’s no way IT can totally control these changes. The best approach is to embrace it as an opportunity to join forces with these citizen developers to create better outcomes and faster solutions by engaging with them and providing controls and guidelines that protect the enterprise but don’t impede progress.

Want to learn more about how well-governed low-code platforms enable organizations to leverage line-of-business professionals while maintaining quality and security? Watch our free webinar, "Gaining Control Over Shadow IT," with John Rymer from Forrester Research.
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