From Crisis to Collaboration: Letting Citizen Development Promote Agility

Jul 2, 2020
1 Min Read


Few companies have had to face the challenges that hurtled through their doors in 2020. Most people’s lives completely transformed in a matter of a week or two. And the prospect of these changes becoming permanent was frightening for everyone affected.

Within a matter of days, offices closed, and IT departments scrambled to make sure the work continued. These employees established secure data access and built remote teleconferencing services quickly and accurately to cut downtime and revenue loss.

Some workers attempted to meet deadlines from home for projects mandated by their managers and clients. Others did their jobs while caring for children who were permanently out of school. The common denominator for telecommuting employees was and still is flexibility and adaptability.

Before this pandemic wreaked havoc around the world, the digital native, tech-savvy workforce was already flexible and adaptable. These employees solved problems by finding and creating tools and software outside the authority of their IT departments.

In the name of speed and efficiency, this shadow IT workforce met deadlines, crafted solutions, and pushed innovation, answering only to satisfied managers. In fact, in January of 2017, Gartner predicted that by the end of that year, 38 percent of technology purchases would be out of the hands of the IT department.

The IT Response

Data systems must resist malicious attacks more so now than ever. Just as our workforce has become technically creative, so have hackers with plenty of time to intercept sensitive data. It’s not surprising that IT departments look unfavorably on Shadow IT since cybersecurity best practices are outside these employees’ scope of knowledge. These two forces attempting to work for the greater good of the company often end up at odds with each other.

In answer to this noncompliance, some companies stopped allowing employees to install software on their workstations. Others insisted on a vetting process, which works better in theory than in the reality of waiting and missed deadlines. Almost all regarded Shadow IT as a plague on their existence and did their best to discourage technical changes not approved by their department.

Shifting the Paradigm

IT employees enjoy minimal downtime. Hardware and software need repairs and updates, and people always need help with their computers. These facts existed way before an actual plague changed everything about how work gets done.

It’s also safe to say that Shadow IT has become even more powerful and prevalent during 2020. Employees need what they need when they need it, and IT departments are busier than ever with remote access and cybersecurity concerns.

Companies are now reopening and bringing their workforce back into the office, some with reduced technical staff. During this pandemic, business reopening also presents a new set of logistical pitfalls, such as social distancing planning, and broken supply chains.

Managed Shadow IT, better known as citizen developers, are an asset to their companies and their managers. It’s time to make them a resource for the overextended IT department as well. Collaboration between all departments and open-minded communication will yield only positive results for businesses that are willing to take this step.

How to Begin the Shift

Most companies’ IT department managers are familiar with ITIL, the IT Infrastructure Library that defines a framework for IT services best practices. Some of the guiding principles include focusing on value, collaboration, direct observation, and designing for experience.

Working within these principles to bring Shadow IT into the overarching fabric of the IT department would look something like this:

  1. Value – Learn how the new software or processes have added value to their department.
  2. Collaborate – Gain a thorough understanding of their new software and processes and work with them to plan and implement effective security compliance.
  3. Observation – Too often, IT doesn’t know enough about what their internal clients do in their day-to-day. One could argue that they don’t have to. But to effectively “manage” Shadow IT, the department must expand their understanding to maintain value and avoid dictatorial and potentially damaging decisions.
  4. Experiential design – Once IT broadens its understanding of each department, it can begin collaboration, and propose modifications and solutions that are both valuable and secure.

Why Low-Code Helps

Many citizen developers need solutions tailored to solve their unique pain points. Low-code platforms offer deep customization and a broad range of technology solutions. They also provide data security that may be lacking in other unvetted options. Their increased popularity shows that low-code is a viable solution for many companies and will continue to shape how they work.

Low-code platforms not only encourage employees to become citizen developers, but they also empower Shadow IT to continue to add value to their departments and the company. Low-code transforms vigilantes into warriors and promotes innovation instead of tension and disapproval. While facing workforce reductions and a collection of unprecedented challenges, IT departments can use all the help that they can get. It’s time to bring these tech-confident employees under the governance of IT and let them be partners in your company’s reinvention.

Learn more about how well-governed, low-code platforms enable organizations to transform their operations
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