Rising demand for software and the shortage of skilled developers is causing major cost overruns for many businesses across the globe. In order to meet this skyrocketing demand for IT developers, businesses are moving towards citizen development. For those who don’t know, citizen development is a systematic approach to application development. With it, non-technical users develop custom software applications for either their own consumption or for their team with simple low-code/no-code solutions. This improves business processes IT team(s) get more bandwidth to focus on more business-critical activities. Additionally, it speeds up app development, cuts costs, and improves productivity and work effectiveness by making application development faster and less costly.
Because of such reasons, businesses that devote time and resources to the citizen development community have seen an uptick in efficiency and productivity. Let’s understand what it is, and how it works on a deeper level.
What is a Citizen Developer
A citizen developer is an employee with no/low code knowledge. A successful citizen developer is able to understand business processes and data aligned to them, think logically, and are motivated to learn new technologies to build such business solutions. They build software applications for their team or others, using low-code/no-code platforms without the involvement of IT.
In a nutshell, we must note that a citizen developer is a persona and not a role. They are generally members of business units who want a solution for their unique problem(s) and are ready to take advantage of new tools and applications to solve these issues themselves. Earlier, citizen developers might have been using legacy tools like Lotus Notes, Microsoft Access, and others to develop business applications, but now a shift is happening to move toward modern and best-of-breed technologies.
Pros of Citizen Development
- Strengthen the IT and Business Partnership. Now, IT can focus on high-value activities and reduce their backlog by unlocking faster innovation across the business.
- It is cost-effective. As this approach reduces the need for IT professionals and related costs. In turn, creating a larger pool of employees with the ability to share resources and development tools.
- Enable Business Agility. The approach promotes tapping into the expertise of the people closest to the business which leads to more rapid innovation.
- Increases productivity and efficiency. By using low-code/no-code platforms, we are able to speed up the app development process, and their ease of use enables users to make changes faster as a company evolves.
Cons of Citizen Development
- Can be a compromise on quality. IT professionals remain an important piece in ensuring an application’s quality and functionality. But that’s not the case with citizen development. As here, we rely heavily on low/no-code platforms and a flaw in their code can cost millions to the business using them. Additionally, many no/low-code platforms lack governance tooling as well.
- Constantly changing technology. As most employees require guidance from IT in becoming citizen developers. In many cases, regular training might be required alongside a consistent investment of time and resources.
Citizen Developers vs Professional Developers
It’s almost impossible for one department to fully operate in a fast-paced business environment and meet the ever-changing needs of the market. That’s why it is important for us to understand where and when to employ the use of citizen and professional developers. Let’s understand the difference between them,
|Citizen Developers||Professional Developers|
|They are mostly well-versed in a particular specialty and can usually work on specific department needs only.||They can operate across a variety of departments.|
|They have limited IT and programming knowledge.||These developers carry an in-depth knowledge of IT and programming.|
|Here, projects are less dependent on IT resources||With them, projects are highly dependent on the availability of IT resources.|
|Generally, rely on low-code or no-code platforms with a simple graphical interface.||They usually employ complex programming languages to solve business-critical challenges.|
Age of the Citizen Developer is Now
IT departments in most companies are overwhelmed. Citizen development is the only available disruptive solution to address this gap in tech expertise that exists today. While it’s no hidden fact that any organization can speed up digital transformation with citizen development, the struggle still seems to be real. That’s why empowering citizen developers is important.