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Half of business technologists now produce capabilities for users beyond their own department or enterprise. That’s the top finding in a new report from Gartner, which cites “a dramatic growth” in digitalization opportunities and lower barriers to entry, including low-code tools and AI-assisted development, as the core factors enabling this democratization beyond IT professionals. What’s more, Gartner reports that 77% of business technologists — defined as employees who report outside of IT departments and create technology or analytics capabilities — routinely use a combination of automation, integration, application development, or data science and AI tools in their daily work.
“This trend has been unfolding for many years, but we’re now seeing a tipping point in which technology management has become a business competency,” Raf Gelders, research vice president at Gartner, told VentureBeat. “Whether all employees will soon be technical employees remains to be seen. Do your best sales reps need to build new digital capabilities? Probably not. Do you want business technologists in sales operations? Probably yes.”
The rise of low-code
Low-code development tools — such as code-generators and drag-and-drop editors — allow non-technical users to perform capabilities previously only possible with coding knowledge. Ninety-two percent of IT leaders say they’re comfortable with business users leveraging low-code tools, with many viewing the democratization as helpful at a time when they’re busier than ever. With the rise of digital transformation, which has only been accelerated by the pandemic, 88% of IT leaders say workloads have increased in the past 12 months. Many report an increase in demand for new applications and say they’re concerned about the workloads and how this might stifle their ability to innovate.
It makes sense that no-code — as well as AI-assisted development — is catching on. AI-assisted software development has been found to save time and reduce errors. In a June report, Gartner found that by 2024, 80% of tech products and services will be built by people who are not technology professionals.
Now these latest findings offer more insight into how business technologists are using the tools. According to the report, they’re primarily responsible for building analytics capabilities (36%) but are also involved in building digital commerce platforms, AI and robotic process automation, and other technologies.
The benefits and risks
Aside from taking some weight off IT teams, low-code tools could offer several additional benefits. Gelders says moving the creation of new digital capabilities closer to customer, product, and business operations improves speed to value. Specifically, he said the researchers found enterprises that democratize digital delivery successfully are 2.6 times more likely to accelerate digital business outcomes.
But there are significant challenges as well. If it’s not managed effectively, Gelders says this democratization can generate serious risks that all CIOs are already familiar with. This includes misaligned initiatives; inconsistencies in the customer experience; cost inefficiencies; and potential compliance, privacy, and security issues. It’s similar to the concerns around “shadow IT,” in which non-IT departments lead technology purchases. This can disrupt systems and workflows, and 26% of CISOs and C-suite executives recently cited shadow IT as the biggest hurdle posed by hybrid work.
The solution is to work with IT and not perform low-code development in silos. According to the new Gartner survey, four out of five respondents reported finding value in collaborating with IT teams, rather than trying to circumvent them. They cite increased innovation, security, and speed when doing so.
“A growing share of business leaders and employees are building or deploying technology and analytics capabilities in order to digitize their business capabilities or create market-facing offerings. This kind of work cannot be done solely by corporate IT. But it also cannot be done without corporate IT,” Gelders said.
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