Project Management

Why Citizen Development not Shadow IT is the Solution to Agility

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Citizen development is a disruptive approach to digital transformation and organizational innovation, where teams are empowered to turn ideas into applications using no-code/low-code technology. This blog provides insights, advice and practical knowledge from thought leaders and practitioners in Citizen Development.

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Empowering Citizen Developers: Overcoming 5 Common Challenges Together

Citizen Development: The Path to Success Starts Small

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No Code, Big Bucks: How Citizen Developers Can Capitalize on the Future of Tech 


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By Mario Trentim

Shadow IT has been around since the beginning of IT. It is the result of business owners and stakeholders reaching for other options to address their challenges rather than waiting for IT to address them. It has been a solution to move faster without all the constraints from IT. To that extent, we might say that Shadow IT had its advantages in the past because there was no better solution.

In this article, I will examine Shadow IT and explore how citizen development brings better solutions to the table.


Shadow IT Benefits vs Risks

A quote attributed to Bill Gates says, “I choose a lazy person to do a hard job because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.”  So, in a way, we must thank the “lazy people” and the workarounds known as Shadow IT. These were the first attempts to get past the IT professionals and developer shortage.

If Shadow IT is so good, shouldn’t we embrace it?

The problem with Shadow IT is that it is unsanctioned, posing significant threats to the security, performance, and reliability of critical assets in your organization.

95% of IT decision-makers recognize risks associated with Shadow IT, including lack of data governance, lack of ownership, and change control.

“If you are not breaking things, you are not moving fast enough.”

(Mark Zuckerberg)

Until recently, employees didn´t have the tools, capacity, and support from IT to address their needs.

Now that low-code platforms matured to the point that they minimize the need for technical knowledge, business users will be empowered to turn their ideas into reality in a hyper-agile development and prototyping environment.


Citizen Development and Hyper-Agility are the Solutions

Increasing IT capacity was never the solution. Considering that the world runs on software, citizen development becomes a life skill in high demand.

FTI Consulting's survey (Figure 1) demonstrates that business stakeholders and IT professionals view citizen development as a practical framework to address some of the main barriers to digital transformation.

Figure 1 – Citizen development research results from 2021 by FTI Consulting.


From the organizations´ perspective, business agility and resilience are only possible in an environment that supports collaboration, and autonomy. People from all industries and professional backgrounds must develop citizen development competencies and digital skills to stay relevant to the job market.

The ability to design and deliver applications will speed up the innovation processes organization-wide. As the organization matures in citizen development, there is a potential to unleash productivity gains across businesses. In order to reap the benefits, we need a combination of project management and hyper-agile development cycle.

Figure 2 – Hyper-agile software development cycle (PMI Citizen Development framework)

Hyper-Agile SDLC combines design and development in real-time with smaller teams and less management overhead, resulting in

· reduced documentation and requirement gathering needs

· lighter project governance and documentation

· continuous improvement, and

· ideation 2.0 throughout the project.

In my future articles, I will describe the project concept or initiation, ideation 2.0, spot assessment, and the three paths to Hyper-Agile SDLC, using the PMI Citizen Development framework.



Shadow IT is not the solution. It was a shortcut to a permanent solution based on citizen development in partnership with IT as needed.

Innovation and speed are essential elements to every organization. The environment has become more volatile and uncertain, and we have not only to adapt but also to anticipate change.

Thanks to technology, and empowered by the PMI Citizen Development framework, we are now better equipped for agility and to digitally transform businesses, society, and the way we work.

Posted by Mario Trentim on: April 15, 2021 12:00 PM | Permalink

Comments (1)

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Luis Branco CEO| Business Insight, Consultores de Gestão, Ldª Carcavelos, Lisboa, Portugal
Dear Mario
Very interesting the theme that brought to our reflection and debate
Thanks for sharing and your opinion
I will definitely read the articles you are preparing to share with us

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