Shadow IT: People are the Cause and the Cure

Written By: Jessica Hawley
February 2, 2018
5 min read

A 2015 study by Cisco found that the average enterprise CIO estimated that its organization used around 51 cloud services to run its business. The actual number was closer to 700.

In fact, CIOs routinely underestimate the volume of Shadow IT by a factor of 15 to 22 times, and these numbers are just getting worse every year. All of this leads to problems for IT, including massive administrative headaches and provisioning, trying to ensure compatibility across applications, and controlling technology spend across their organization. And we can’t forget the growing threat of data theft or loss from frontline workers putting sensitive data into unsecured cloud applications.

Some estimate up to a third of any organization’s security risk comes directly from Shadow IT. How did we get here? The good news is that if you work in IT, it’s really not your fault. There are three key factors that have contributed to the proliferation of Shadow IT:

  1. There has been an explosion of productivity data. Data that helps people actually get their day jobs done from various channels starting with spreadsheets and emails, going through mobile applications, social media, internet of things, and all sorts of data collection mechanisms.
  2. Today’s workforce is increasingly technologically savvy. By 2020, more than half of the workforce will be digital natives, who are more confident with technology and more demanding of solutions that meet their needs exactly.
  3. There just aren’t enough developers to go around. According to Forrester, the US economy will be short about 500,000 developers by 2020, and even if they did exist in those numbers, they still wouldn’t have time to address every one of the business’ needs.

What you end up with is way more demand for technology solutions than supply, which forces business people to go find their own solutions. Ultimately, it creates an expensive, inefficient use of technology within organizations with little IT governance or control, and growing risk exposure to the organization.

Thankfully there is a solution: low-code platforms for business developers can help IT organizations address shadow IT by cultivating unlikely allies, which are the business users themselves.

Low-code platforms: the cure to Shadow IT

In a recent webinar, John Rymer, VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, discussed how well-governed low-code platforms enable organizations to leverage line-of-business professionals while maintaining quality and security.

Rymer Webinar Screenshot

With the pace of business moving faster than ever before, this translates into a need for faster delivery of software in order to compete. Shadow IT has always been present and will always be present, but a great opportunity has emerged to harness it using low-code platforms – and leverage existing line-of-business resources to deliver software.

According to John Rymer, there are somewhere between 70 and 100 low-code platforms that exist, and they’re not all the same. In his work, he found these platforms can be divided into two important market segments that are defined by who the products are designed to serve: pro developers and business developers.

The segment of low-code platforms that we talk about as the antidote to Shadow IT are designed for what Rymer calls “business developers.” While there are many differences between platforms designed for pro developers vs. business developers, we can think about low-code platforms for business developers as being designed for simplicity. They offer a simple way to create and deploy easy-to-use business apps without the coding skills of a pro developer, and enable your team to securely access data, seamlessly collaborate, quickly accomplish tasks and create and disseminate targeted reports. And you have the ability to update those apps frequently and in real-time to keep pace with rapidly changing business and customer requirements.

Rymer states, “I have consistently found products that are designed for developers fail when they’re put in front of business people. They’re too complex, too difficult to use, which ultimately leads to their failure.”

“The real antidote that low-code platforms for business developers give to us is the ability to take this activity of business people delivering software, what we call shadow IT or rogue IT, and move it from these fundamentally unmanaged personal productivity applications and instead onto platforms that are managed.”

The power of managed platforms

This is an opportunity that’s existed now for five or six years and is only getting better. The platforms are only getting stronger. The idea is simple: if we can move this activity onto managed platforms, then we’ve got a fighting chance of attacking the pathologies that we heard about earlier – runaway costs, insecure applications – that put our data at risk. We can minimize the creation of poor applications, or reduce the amount of great applications that have no visibility and are now difficult to manage because we don’t know how they were created.

Moving this activity onto managed platforms gives us all kinds of opportunities that we didn’t have before. We are able to nurture these business developers and the work that they do, we are able to govern and support their work and make it part of our application delivery strategy.

Want to learn more about the fast-growing low-code development market and how IT leaders are using business developers to power digital transformation and refocus resources on the projects that matter?

Written By: Jessica Hawley
Jessica Hawley is a marketing manager at Quickbase, focused on SEO, content and social media.

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