Citizen developer tools that allow business staff to build applications are becoming increasingly powerful and can lead to important productivity gains.\nThat\u2019s the view of Mark Driver, a research director at Gartner. He expects citizen development efforts to expand significantly over the next five years.\nA key reason for this is the accelerating enterprise use of cloud-based software platforms that allow citizen developers to access corporate data more easily than data stored on servers in corporate data centers controlled by the IT department, he says.\nBut here\u2019s the problem. Many citizen developer platforms purport to offer data access and other controls to help ensure regulatory compliance, but Driver says that these are often of limited use.\n"Compliance controls? Vendors over-hype them and the truth is that citizen developers are essentially ignoring regulatory and compliance issues," he says. "Some platforms do look after that, but there are examples of apps built with citizen developer tools that completely ignore privacy and compliance issues."\nBut business users want to use citizen developer tools because they get tired of waiting for IT departments to develop applications they need want to make their jobs more efficient.\u00a0 That means IT departments have little option but to embrace citizen development while keeping a watchful eye over it, Driver says.\n"If citizen development is done properly in partnership with the IT department, then that can work," he says. \u00a0"There is a distinction between people who develop unbeknownst to IT \u2013 we call that shadow IT \u2013 and citizen developers who work in partnership with IT."\n[Related: 9 bad programming habits we secretly love]\nSome organizations have already established these sorts of partnerships, but Gartner expects 70 percent of large enterprises will have done so by 2020, up from just 20 percent in 2010.\nThere is good reason to do so, Driver believes:\u00a0 Gartner expects that 50 percent of companies without formalized control and management of citizen development policies will encounter substantial data, process integrity and security vulnerabilities by 2020.\nFilling in the gaps\nOne company that is heavily invested in citizen development is Mich.-based specialty fulfillment company Helm Incorporated. It uses a cloud-based citizen development platform called Intuit QuickBase. \u00a0Michael\u00a0Wacht, the company\u2019s vice president of operations and a former CIO, says he wants to give business users the capability to develop their own applications to fill the gaps between the applications offered by the IT department.\n"As we are a service business we have lots of unique needs, and we were so frustrated with the backlog of applications we were waiting for that we decided to let our teams develop them themselves," he says. "It turns out we can develop an application faster than we can document a process.\nHelm's experience is that employees are able to develop useful applications without having any formal programming skills. This is consistent with a recent study of QuickBase users carried out by Intuit which \u00a0found that only 8 percent of respondents had traditional coding skills in coding languages like Java, .NET, C++ or Ruby, yet 68 percent considered developing apps to be part of their job.\n"We find that our staff want to learn to use QuickBase as they want more control in their domain," says Wacht. "Advanced Excel users are the perfect candidates,\u201d he adds.\nAs an example of the type of application being developed, Wacht highlights a merchandising team at the company that sells shirts, stickers and other items with company logos attached.\n\u00a0"That team generated about 3,000 spreadsheets over a space of two years, and they would circulate these spreadsheets every day. The first app that was developed was a fairly robust database with 256 fields, and it was very successful as it cut out errors and saved a lot of time.\u201d\nThe company now uses 30 applications built using the platform, and Wacht estimates that 95 percent of staff use at least one every day as a critical part of their jobs. Thousands of spreadsheets have been eliminated, and overall he estimates the company has saved around $250,000 by getting rid of process redundancy.\nAs far as compliance procedures are concerned, Wacht relies on the controls that the QuickBase platform provides, and which are configured by IT department administrators.\nMuch of the data that these user-developed applications require is customer-related, but Wacht is not worried that it is being used in citizen-developed applications.\n\u201cI like to remind people where the data came from," he says. "Before, it was in emails, faxes, phone calls and was not controlled at all. Now it is controlled much more rigorously in the QuickBase applications, and that\u2019s what I say in an audit."\nA DIY ethos fuels the hands-on approach\nIn general the types of applications that are suitable for citizen development are ones that make peoples\u2019 jobs easier by automating a process, believes Karen Devine, global marketing and channels leader at Intuit QuickBase.\n[Related: The terrible 10: Programmers\u2019 biggest frustrations]\nDevine adds that younger workers expect to identify and solve problems themselves. \u201cIf the technology means that you don\u2019t need coding skills and is accessible then the people closest to the work are the best people to design the solution to a problem,\u201d she says.\nDevine says that citizen development should be thought of as a natural extension of the trend that has seen business users generating their own documents instead of using a secretary in a typing pool or someone else to create them.\n"In the past we had a PowerPoint pool, and I would write an outline of a presentation on a piece of paper and someone would turn it into a PowerPoint file. But if I didn\u2019t do it quite right then it would have to go back and be changed. Now it\u2019s much easier: I know what I want and I just do it myself."\nAnother way that citizen developer tools can be used, Devine suggests, is to get IT departments to do the majority of the app development work \u2013 including ensuring that compliance and security is baked in \u2013 by creating \u201capplication templates.\u201d\n"These \u2018mostly done\u2019 applications can then be given to business users who then develop the last mile, making minor changes and customizations and taking on responsibility for updates and maintenance," she explains.\nBut even if they sanction and supervise citizen developers, the biggest problem for IT departments is the risk that some business users will also turn to shadow IT: \u00a0developing other applications behind the IT department's back.\n"There nothing that a CIO can do to stop this from happening," warns Gartner's Driver. "These users work for different people, and the only person they have in common with the IT department is the CEO.\n"So all the IT department can do is attempt to educate people in terms of the benefits and the risks, and try to influence the decision to become a citizen developer rather than a shadow one," he concludes.