Digital democracy or IT anarchy? Gartner flags the low-code revolution

Without strong governance, incoming tools will wreak havoc for CIOs

Gartner has raised the specter of departments outside of tech running their own IT functions under the guise of low-code and digital democratization.

A study by the consultant-cum-market-researcher has shown that 46 percent of EMEA CIOs are moving to a world where techies are no longer the sole proprietor of a company's digital assets.

The rise of no-code, low-code, and generative AI services has meant that what was once the domain of the IT team can now be delivered at a departmental level, though tech will be called upon if things go wrong.

Readers with long memories might shudder at this, remembering the dark days of Visual Basic 3, Microsoft Access, and enthusiastic employees with not quite enough skill wreaking havoc on a company's infrastructure.

Daniel Sanchez-Reina, VP Analyst at Gartner, told The Register this was a concern as digital delivery becomes ever more democratized within enterprises. "If you don't put a governance, good governance, in place, what you can get is chaos. And you can get even more shadow IT than the one that companies have."

According to Gartner's survey, which consisted of data gathered from 2,457 CIO respondents across 84 countries, 46 percent of CIOs are partnering with their CxO peers to co-own digital delivery on an enterprise-wide scale. The process has been dubbed the democratization of digital delivery, with the CIO acting as a franchiser of technology.

Sanchez-Reina attributed this shift to the arrival of low-code and no-code services, with 66 percent of EMEA CIOs saying they had already or were planning to deploy the technology within the next two years. Unsurprisingly, 72 percent of CIOs surveyed reckoned the arrival of AI would be "game-changing" over the next three years, although only 29 percent were specific about generative AI. This suggests to us that not all CIOs necessarily understand what AI is in the current context.

That said, the substantial spending continues to be on cybersecurity, with 81 percent of CIOs replying that they intend to increase investment in the area.

However, it is the franchising model and the democratization of digital delivery that marks a new trend. Sanchez-Reina told The Register that many organizations were unconsciously moving toward a franchise model as a side-effect of deployments. "The underlying reason is that CEOs are pushing IT departments to focus on strategic things."

This, in turn, means that tasks which once were the preserve of IT can be moved elsewhere thanks to new platforms and services. Sanchez-Reina said: "There are people in finance, for example, who are hiring – of course in agreement with the CIO – but they are hiring data scientists in an effort to provide analytical capabilities to the finance department. So it's something that in the past that was done by the IT departments."

Sanchez-Reina cautioned: "If a finance director hires a data scientist without informing, without reaching an agreement with the CIO, that's shadow IT. That's not democratization."

And that way lies the potential for chaos as anyone who has had to deal with the pain of shadow IT can attest. Democratization of digital delivery is undoubtedly a good thing but it must be accompanied by robust governance. ®

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