Low Code, Shadow IT, Citizen Developers, and the Forrester Wave
Corporate Information Technology departments are tasked with running and maintaining aging applications, applying old methods with a smaller staff and declining budgets. Often, the pressure to produce a solution for the business is so intense that IT simply can’t meet the demands. The business decides to take matters into their own hands. This is what we call “shadow IT”. It means the applications or programs built, constructed, assembled, rented, or leased outside of the IT department’s control.
With today’s cloud based offerings, everything can be “delivered as a service”, be it Software as a Service, Database as a Service, Platform as a Service, etc. The business doesn’t necessarily need to involve or include IT in the decision or implementation at all. Often, there’s nothing to install, maintain, or backup. Implementation, data conversion and go-live can be accomplished without IT’s knowledge or realization that these applications and services even exist.
Regardless of IT’s lack of involvement, these shadow IT applications or platforms get adopted and start to grow within the business. Here, the complexity of managing them and the built-in value to the business of the data included within them becomes very visible. This usually forces the business to turn over control or outright dump the support of these shadow IT applications onto IT itself, the organization they initially subverted.
The First Wave: Rapid Application Development
In the past decade, IT leveraged a number of tools that went by monikers like “4GL” (fourth generation language), “CASE” (computer aided systems engineering) and “RAD” (rapid application development). These tools, which included PowerBuilder, Oracle Forms, and Crystal Reports) were often purpose built and narrowly focused. They sometimes didn’t play nicely with other tools or within the corporate enterprise environment.
Ultimately most of these RAD developed a stigmatism either that they were for prototyping only or that other web appdev technologies kept emerging and they couldn’t keep up. For example new rich client browser technologies such as bootstrap, angularJS, reactJS developed by Twitter, Google, and Facebook respectively. These new paradigms in the cloud and in the browser eventually pushed us to call these RAD tools “legacy”.
The Rise of the Citizen Developer
Enter a younger generation to the workforce equipped with smart phones connected to Apple’s app store and Google Play. These corporate citizens are connoisseurs of useful applications and user experience design. Placing them in front of a stodgy tool like Cognos for BI and it triggers a gag reflex. EnterTableau as an example. Users absolutely love Tableau for BI and that explains its traction in recent years, and the retraction of Cognos and other heavyweight BI tools. There are some significant disadvantages around deploying Tableau Software to production but we’ll elaborate on that below.
This traction of simplified applications like Tableau are part of a larger movement around the ‘citizen’. These can be citizen developers, citizen integrators, and citizen analysts who replace the IT developers, integrators and analysts of yesterday’s IT teams.
As these citizen developers take the help of todays business areas, they begin leveraging easy to use tools that allow them to create applications with low code or no coding required. These new developers can have little or no coding experience yet they are able to leverage these new platforms, like Oracle Application Express, to assemble robust enterprise- and customer-facing apps to power their business.