What is a Citizen Developer and Shadow IT?

Let’s start with simple definitions.

Citizen Developer:   A citizen developer is a user who creates business applications for their department or company and who is not part of the IT department, but who is typically guided by IT in terms of what software to use, training and support.

Shadow IT:   Shadow IT typically refers users or departments who have implemented software or other technical solutions outside of IT’s approval or knowledge. However, it’s worth noting that these rogue solutions are often grounded in legitimate business needs.

Citizen developers and Shadow IT can be a real headache for an already overworked and underfunded IT department.

Actually, citizen developers have been around for some time.  There have been rapid application development systems in the past where users could be trained to be able to create business applications. These users used to be called “super users”.  They had an affinity for technology and were willing to put in the time to learn some basic programming skills to turn out simple but useful apps.  However, this also often hampered IT from a support point of view as users could take the app to a certain functional level and then IT would have to finish the application.

Shadow IT is a growing problem.  When business users don’t get the solutions they need from IT in a timely manner, they search for their own solutions.  With the rise of easily available SaaS options these days, solutions are not hard to find.  Problems can arise when the users of these rogue solutions run into technical difficulties or want to integrate these systems with internal systems or information and hence turn to IT to solve it.  These issues can be frustrating for IT because they often are unfamiliar with the rogue system and it takes time to learn and find solutions when something goes wrong.  What’s more is, there might be several of these non-sanctioned systems that IT ends up being saddled with.

And, it’s not solely business staff who are the problem.  Often line-of-business workers know what they need.  They know what app that they and some other department could use to make life easier and more efficient for them.  However, when they go to their IT department, IT is typically buried in a mountain of projects and can’t get to even the simplest of solutions in a timely manner.  There’s just so much technology that is rapidly changing it’s hard for any organization to keep up in order to stay competitive.

THE SOLUTION:  Good News for Business and IT
Today’s low-code solutions have come a long way. Users don’t have to know much technically, if anything, to assemble useful business applications. This is good news for CIO’s and IT departments because now they can employ business users to prototype and create applications.   Give staff some tools to do it themselves, to a certain degree.  Major impacts can be made on the time it takes to turn out solutions, easing the stress on IT staff and making line-of-business workers happy, preventing the need to seek out alternative external solutions.