The concept of “Shadow IT” users emerged about five to ten years ago as more and more business users began to support their application needs bypassing IT, performing functions such as modeling, reporting, data management and even application development using desktop tools like spreadsheets and access etc. These users are not officially part of corporate IT but can be as much as 78% of the total IT staff, according to a study conducted by Booz Allen Hamilton in 2003.
The appeal of desktop tools is that they are accessible within the business user’s control and enable them to create value and respond to particular business process needs quickly. Unfortunately, often times these tools cannot be shared, don’t scale to the enterprise and are not database-driven. They also lack distributed reporting capability thus contributing to information overload. The data is often duplicated or spread across many different computers through a plethora of spreadsheets. Users relying on these tools find it difficult to enforce accountability or gain visibility into the current processes within the organization.
BPM platforms emerged as a solution to this problem; empowering the business user to maintain control over their business process automation needs while enabling IT to maintain control over the platform and infrastructure. This provided a win-win solution for both groups. However, many BPM platforms grew too complex and are firmly now IT tools primarily requiring scripting, coding, advanced database design knowledge – skills sets that are outside the typical business user reach with some minor features for modeling. Today we now see a split in the BPM market between solutions that are targeted towards business users with simplicity and speed of implementation; while others are targeted towards developers with complex integration and scripting.
It will be interesting to see how the split evolves.