Citizen developers will be building at least a quarter of new business applications by 2014, according to Gartner, Inc. In an era of shoestring IT budgets, end users are increasingly looking outside the IT organization for application development (AD) and in many cases are building applications themselves.
Gartner defines a "citizen developer" as an end user who creates new business applications for consumption by others using development and runtime environments sanctioned by corporate IT.
"End-user application development (EUAD) is nothing new, but the risks and opportunities it presents have become much greater in recent years," said Ian Finley, research vice president at Gartner. "In the past, EUAD posed limited risks to the organization because it was typically limited to a single user or workgroup. However, end users can now build departmental, enterprise and even public applications. While this change enables organizations to empower end users and releases IT resources, it also heightens the risks of EUAD."
Gartner analysts said that IT organizations need to adapt to the new realities of EUAD and build a citizen developer support program.
"EUAD is being transformed by several converging forces, including changing workforce demographics, the mass customization and maturation of service-oriented architecture, simplified tools for new development and the power of cloud computing for delivering IT capabilities to end users with no IT assistance," said Eric Knipp, research director at Gartner. "Fighting these forces is a losing battle, but a citizen developer program can reduce the risks and unlock potential in EUAD."
Although the potential for EUAD to provide value is great, the risks to the business of poorly managed (or unmanaged) EUAD can be severe. Gartner predicts that by 2014, at least a third of enterprises without formalized citizen developer governance policies will encounter substantial data, process integrity and security vulnerabilities.
IT leaders should work with the business to identify just-enough governance to enable and protect citizen developers and mitigate risks such as the reproduction of similar applications, inadequate application life cycle management (ALM), the delegation of responsibility for failed projects to the IT department and the ignorance of best practices in security, performance, etc.
"If end-user developers are ignored, and they build applications without help or knowledge from the IT organization, then there is a real risk that they will fail miserably and create an unplanned burden for IT," Mr. Knipp said. "When an application is mission-critical — as often is the case with unmonitored tools used in business areas — the pain for the IT staff is even more acute. IT leaders must be proactive in managing citizen developer initiatives by providing tools that enable transparency in monitoring, change control and analytics. Even if IT is not at the wheel, it should keep a close eye on the dashboard."
IT organizations should manage the inherent risks of EUAD by educating citizen developers where they must tread lightly, and offer platforms with the "sharp edges" removed.
"A citizen developer support program that includes sanctioned platforms, just-enough governance, access to enterprise services, and IT guidance and monitoring can create a safe environment for end-user AD," said Mr. Finley. "By engaging with end users and helping them help themselves, IT can accelerate the exploitation of new technology and help end users create competitive advantage and build closer links with their business peers, while managing the risks of EUAD."
Additional information is available in the Gartner report "Citizen Developers Are Poised to Grow, 2011." The report is available on Gartner's website at http://www.gartner.com/resId=1726747.
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