What is citizen development? The CIO’s solution to shadow IT

The growing demand for software has given rise to pseudo-programmers who, though not professional developers, build applications that empower their business lines. These so-called “citizen developers” (cit-devs) build apps because IT can’t build the software they require when they require it.

Cit-devs fall into two camps: those who don’t code, and power users who do minimal coding. Forty-one percent of business respondents are running active cit-dev initiatives, with another 20 percent either evaluating or planning to start, according to a survey from Gartner, which predicts the number of active citizen developers will be at least four times the number of professional developers by 2023. 

“The number of people who can participate in citizen development is growing exponentially,” says Chris Obdam, CEO of Betty Blocks, which makes software that empowers users to build apps without coding. “They see the IT dept is not up for it and shadow IT is created because the business is growing more and more frustrated.”

That mention of shadow IT is crucial: Some citizen development is sanctioned, while some isn’t. But whether it happens with or without IT’s knowledge, cit-dev presents a new challenge for CIOs who must decide whether to support or thwart these types of programmers. The stakes are high: Without oversight of citizen development, CIOs won’t know what tools and platforms are being used or how data is being governed, opening their companies up to security and privacy risks.

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