Reports: IT Should Accommodate Homemade Apps and BI Tools

Gartner published studies last month that advise IT departments to enable creation and use of applications by employees, and encouraged IT to use simple business intelligence (BI) tools.

Organizations with locked-down environments might not like the idea of letting users loose with new-fangled software tools that access production data. It can cause IT headaches when employees build their own applications without regard to application life cycle management, for instance. Allowing simple BI tools popularized by consumers that access corporate environments can risk the creation of data silos and multiple platforms to manage. However, Gartner analysts seem largely unsympathetic to such potential complaints from IT.

Instead, in two separate studies, Gartner advises that IT shops facilitate the creation of applications by employees, as well as the use of consumer BI tools. Resistance is largely futile, the analyst firm argues.

In its study, Citizen Developers Are Poised to Grow, Gartner argues that end-user-created business applications are increasing, with 25 percent of new business applications expected to be built by so-called "citizen developers" by 2014. IT shops that ignore this trend without governance policies in place could face consequences, the study warns.

"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," Gartner explained in an announcement.

IT shops should work to create a safe end user application development environment and remove "the sharp edges" of platforms, where disasters could occur.

A second Gartner study, The Consumerization of BI Drives Greater Adoption, acknowledges that tools used by BI consumers have been encroaching into business IT environments as part of a general trend. The actual use of BI tools in organizations is still rather low -- at less than 30 percent, per Gartner. Enterprise BI tools, in general, are frequently just too hard to use, too slow, or not relevant to the task at hand, according to the report. That might explain, in part, why consumer BI tools are getting used in organizations.

Gartner recommends in this report that IT shops adopt a portfolio-management approach to support these new consumer BI tools. That means having to manage different metadata models. Moreover, data can get lodged in different silos. Those are some problems, but IT shops should take an accommodating approach, according to Gartner.

"The practical outcome of this is standardization by capability, rather than vendor, and the need for a BICC [business intelligence competency center] to monitor how consumer BI is coming into the organization," the report concludes.

The "Consumerization of BI" report particularly singles out mobile devices as the main platform for consumer BI application use. By 2013, one-third of BI functionality will be delivered through handheld devices, Gartner predicts.

Few vendor BI examples are described in the report, except for Apple with its App Store. The vendor with the most popular consumer mobile app selection could end up having a strong influence on which BI apps will get used in business environments, according to Gartner.

"It could be argued that the vendor that wins the competition for the 'best BI experience on a mobile device' will stand an improved chance of becoming a main BI standard in organizations," the report states.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.