Gartner and Forrester mean something quite different when they refer to “citizen developer.”
For most organizations, digital transformation will require a huge expansion of development resources. And new generations of development tools have come to market designed to be used by “citizen developers,” including AgilePoint NX. But even the reigning heavy weight analysts of the IT industry, Gartner and Forrester, may disagree about who and what a citizen developer actually is.
Richardson and Rymer at Forrester Research on “Citizen Developer”
In a recent report, “Vendor Landscape: The Fractured, Fertile Terrain Of Low-Code Application Platforms” (subscription required), Forrester analysts Clay Richardson and John Rymer allude to a definition of citizen developer without actually providing one. The report refers to “business experts” that are capable of “of delivering apps relying on spreadsheets, desktop databases, and similar tools” as being citizen developers, the implication being that a citizen developer is not a “pro developer.”
Richardson and Rymer are primarily business process (BPMS) analysts who coined the term “low-code” as a moniker for an emerging class of rapid application development software capable of creating powerful software assets uber fast with little to no coding. (Note that the jury is still out on whether a “citizen developer” [business expert/power user] can effectively apply these platforms for sophisticated app development.) Given their background and positions at Forrester, looking to Richardson and Rymer for an implicitly sanctioned Forrester definition of “citizen developer” ought to be fairly safe.
Gartner’s Definition and Driver’s Explanation
While Gartner’s online Glossary includes a short definition for “citizen developer,” it leaves lots of room for interpretation:
A citizen developer is a user who creates new business applications for consumption by others using development and runtime environments sanctioned by corporate IT.
However, in a recent call with Gartner VP and Research Director, Mark Driver, who specializes in Java technology as well as the Microsoft’s .NET framework, I got a much more complete understanding of what Gartner analysts are often referring to when they speak of a citizen developer, which, as it turns out, could mean anyone—including a professional software engineer—who is building new software assets from outside the IT department. Driver pointed out that, by Gartner’s use of the term, “citizen development” could involve an entire team of software engineers embedded in a business unit but working in collaboration with the IT department.
According to Driver, Gartner uses another term (“shadow development”) to refer to initiatives taking place in business units outside the purview of IT.
Competing Definitions for “Citizen Developer”
It should be noted that Forrester’s Richardson and Rymer are best known for their work with declarative (point-and-click) development platforms, which are, in some cases, accessible to business experts and power users, and, given their role in mapping the BPMS and low-code industries, their definition of citizen developer makes sense.
In contrast, Gartner’s definition—which has to some degree, been codified—is more expansive and, consequently, maybe a bit less intuitive. Just the same, because Gartner is envisioning a broader context—one that includes both 3-GLs and 4-GLs— it only makes sense that it includes anyone building anything from composite forms and workflows to hand-coded systems.