It’s probably no surprise that end-user computing (EUC) is not a new concept for technology leaders, but as with anything in technology, it can always get faster, more portable, or deliver better experiences. This is what the Microsoft Power Platform does successfully. The Power Platform is transformative, not just to EUC teams, or even IT teams, but to the whole organisation, which is a lot of ROI for just one platform!
In this post we’re going to focus primarily on Power Apps, exploring the benefits to IT and why the platform isn’t a cause of so-called ‘shadow IT’, but actually the solution to just that, and what this means.
The ‘Problem’ of Shadow IT
If you aren’t familiar, ‘Shadow IT’ is a dirty phrase given to applications that are created outside of either a central IT team or any other team that may manage solution or product development on a full-time basis. The classic case is a macro-laden spreadsheet that was created as a short-term fix, which eventually became the long-term standard for a business-critical process or function. These solutions rarely go through proper quality assurance, are far more likely to present security/privacy risks, lack documentation and broader awareness and therefore mean that very few know how the solution works or what it’s actually doing — let alone troubleshoot, fix or improve it!
If all of this is true, why do we allow it to happen in the first place? I don’t believe the root cause is a lack of governance, and it may be time for some home truths…
The business environment is changing at a rapid pace, and this places a demand on organisations to respond. Whether it’s based on competitors, customer expectations, or some other driver such as a regulatory one — such commercial response will often need a technological enabler.
However, often organisations ‘time to market’ isn’t what it could be. This may be because of inefficiencies with how we exchange information with the rest of the business, such as requirements, constraints, or even the art of the possible. Alternatively, it may be connected to procurement constraints, reliance on third parties, or any other form of being short on staff.
If we introduce the Power Platform into the mix, the likely ‘App Makers’ are the exact same culprits who made that spreadsheet I mentioned — but this time it’s a good thing!
Cause vs Solution
Obviously, if you give everyone access, with no communication, collaboration or governance, the problem will continue, just under a different name. As part of Capgemini’s EmPowered Platform methodology, we exploit the cloud architecture of the Power Platform and its deep governance capabilities to provide unparalleled visibility into all the apps across an organisation. This is alongside a unified data model made possible through Microsoft Dataverse.
Ultimately the tools are not the root cause of the Shadow IT problem, they simply enable it. However, with the right governance, and a greater common understanding between business and IT, the alleged problem actually becomes the solution. This is because governance is made both easy and frictionless, even being able to create apps for managing the approval of other apps! Additionally, there is the pre-built Microsoft answer to governance on the Power Platform — The Centre of Excellence Starter Kit (CoE Starter Kit).
What this means for IT as we know it
Does this mean I believe software engineers are less relevant? Absolutely not! There will always be an element of customisation required, and actually the role of a ‘component developer’ is a key role in the EmPowered Platform methodology, where reusable custom components can be created, to be used as building blocks by citizen developers, further accelerating the time to market of high-quality solutions. Engineers also play a key role as ‘stewards’ in this brave new low-code world, providing guidance on modern ways of working, such as DevOps and CI/CD which are pivotal to innovating at scale, as well as providing the full-time, long term continuity required to continuously improve and maintain the application estate.