The Rise of the Citizen Developer in Enterprise Organizations

The Rise of the Citizen Developer in Enterprise Organizations

With the rapid expansion of digital technology, the doors are wide open for the ‘citizen developer’. ‘Today, all companies are software companies’ according to Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft.

If your organization provides services, then your software probably coordinates workflows, supports customer service, builds loyalty, and/or aggregates indicators for facilitating management decisions. If your business is industrial, your software probably controls the purchasing, production, stock management, marketing, sales, and/or distribution processes.

When virtually all of your organization’s operations are supported by software, then it is undeniable that your business is a software business.

The problem (and it’s a big one) is that there simply aren’t enough developers available to meet this demand. Here is where no-code development platforms and the rise of ‘citizen development’ enter the scene.

Who are Citizen Developers?

According to the  Gartner Glossary, a citizen developer refers to a computer user who is able to create or develop new business applications for later consumption/use by other company users by employing runtime environments and development environments approved by corporate IT.

Initially, the development of end-user applications was limited to workgroup/single-group applications that had been developed using tools like Microsoft Access and Excel.

But things have changed, with many end-users being in a position to develop public, enterprise, and departmental applications through the use of cloud computing, style development platforms, and shared services.

Today, we refer to them as the more tech-savvy business users who use a no-code approach to software development.

How Can a Citizen Developer Help Your IT Department?

It is fair to say that what is now known as a ‘citizen developer’ was born out of necessity. Due to the digital transformation, the workload of IT teams has exploded. In many organizations, the IT department tends to be overworked and understaffed. And the digital ecosystem grows more complex every day (think of cloud-based, legacy, on-premise, and hybrid solutions that require increasing interconnectivity).

Given the fact that the IT department cannot immediately respond to all employee requests, many requests for support end up being overlooked or moved to the back burner.

In cases like these, a resourceful user will not have the patience to wait around for too long. Eventually, they will ‘go rogue’ in a bid to try and get things done. This leads to the creation of a shadow-IT.

Offloading some of these requests to citizen developers has many benefits for the organization as a whole:

Speeds up the development of critical solutions within the organization
Empowers (business) users to innovate and spark transformation
Prevents shadow-IT and employees from going ‘rogue’ by offering a citizen developer  a platform on which to work that can be monitored by IT
Frees up valuable IT resources by tapping into the legions of problem-solvers in your organization who do not have coding/development backgrounds
Builds a bridge between Business & IT – IT stays involved with core parts of the organization.

How Can a Citizen Developer Help Your Company Grow?

The benefits to your company of a citizen developer are myriad. In terms of growth, they are able to support the organization’s ability to react when the need for change arises, for instance, by assisting to drive digital transformation. These developers are capable of contributing applications that will help guarantee the success of automation processes as well as fully digitize the company’s systems.

Speed is another important factor to consider. Organizations are often faced with the ongoing demand to create new business solutions and applications that will help them to expand their operations. By taking into account the success of low-code/no-code platforms, this type of developer can use visual modeling to easily build efficient applications and solutions in a matter of days instead of months.

How are Citizen Developers and Low-code/No-code Related to One Another?

The success of low-code/no-code development lies in its ability to simplify the application-building process. This is the reason that the citizen developer and low-code/no-code development so easily complement each other—they both seek to abolish as much hand-coding as possible. These initiatives are likely to have an even greater impact as organizations start to create applications that can function across a broad array of gadgets, such as smartphones, for example.

Citizen developers and low-code/no-code development have made great strides in the recent past, as more companies try to come up with unique software that has been created in a simple, yet efficient, manner.

Why Use a Citizen Developer?

The skill set of a citizen developer means that they are equipped to develop all kinds of back office, mobile, and web applications.

The benefits of citizen developers:

The Pros of Citizen Developers

It is impossible for citizen developers to create all internal applications needed. But the truth is that they can create an enormous number of them. The skill set of a citizen developer means that they know more about their internal procedures and standards than any external team ever would.

When a company opts to work with citizen developers, they are not always doing so to save money. At times, the success of automation is dependent on the ability of the entire team to come up with critical components, e.g., infrastructure-based components that can reduce the pressure placed on available resources.

The Cons of Citizen Developers

Security must always be a top priority for all companies. And while internal tools are not targeted by hackers as often as public tools are, hackers can still exploit their vulnerabilities to gain access.

While allowing citizen developers to develop security tools has its pros and cons, it is clear that the benefits of a citizen developer far outweigh the risks.

Where to Find a Citizen Developer

According to Gartner, many citizen developers can be found within an organization. They do not necessarily have to be from the IT department; they may also work in the sales, finance, and purchasing departments. A recent survey by Gartner indicated that approximately 38 percent of participants asserted that they did not have shadow-IT or citizen developers within their ranks.

This percentage is significantly lower than a similar survey commissioned two years ago that found that that 49 percent of the respondents had stated the same.

Why is a Citizen Developer Good for Your Company and Its Future?

Studies have shown that citizen developers tend to differ greatly from their counterparts in a number of ways. Developers in this group routinely come up with new and unique ways to meet their needs as opposed to relying on the company’s IT department to offer a one-size-fits-all solution. In many cases, the citizen developer will even choose to use their own applications and devices to come up with a solution to an existing problem at the workplace.


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