Citizen Developers: Empowering Your Workforce to Build Apps

Michaela Markley Picture

by Michaela Markley | Last Updated: Feb 6, 2020

The partnership between business and IT department in a company is extremely important but often has many obstacles, which inevitably creates shadow IT. (You know when the business decides to buy its own SaaS without getting IT marketers never do that...right?) So what’s the solution to this ongoing battle between business and IT? That’s where the concept of citizen developers comes in. Citizen Developers The idea of citizen developers has been a hot topic for the last few years and companies of all sizes have started developing ways for citizen developers to become productive app builders. In fact, Gartner says “By 2023, the number of active citizen developers at large enterprises will be at least four times the number of professional developers.” Citizen developer was coined by Gartner and described as “a user who creates new business applications for consumption by others using development and runtime environments sanctioned by corporate IT.” Previously business users were limited to tools such as Microsoft Excel and Access, but now they use no-code or low-code platforms to build applications without needing to write a single line of code. That’s code required.  This means that anyone in your business with some degree of technical savviness can use a no-code or low-code platform to solve their business problems without needing to involve IT. However, citizen developers are not really excluding IT completely from the process entirely because IT has approved the use of the no-code or low-code platform by the business. What’s Driving the Citizen Developer Movement The citizen developer movement was primarily driven by the business’ need for speed and the difficulty most enterprise IT organizations have with moving swiftly on business needs that randomly popup given the other responsibilities they already have such as ensuring the ERP system stays up, overall enterprise architecture efforts, etc. So what happened in these situations? The business went rogue and purchased countless unapproved platforms without IT’s input or knowledge. This led to numerous issues such as organizations spending money on multiple platforms that offer the same functionality, duplicate contracts with SaaS companies, lack of oversight into each platform’s security policies, etc. The need for having secure, managed platforms while also enabling the business to move at their own speed is what ultimately drove the creation of the citizen developer movement. Now, IT has the capability, thanks to low-code and no-code app building platforms, to choose the platforms they want to use to  empower citizen developers. Thanks to citizen developers, IT no longer needs to help the business side with every single digital initiative they want to launch and instead can focus on the mission-critical applications and systems they’re tasked with supporting. This approach truly enables the business and IT to do what each group does best. Why Citizen Developers Are Important Solving business problems is at the heart of a citizen developer, but the nomenclature can be a bit misleading. Citizen developers aren’t actually developers at all. Instead, they’re tech savvy members of an organization who can use a no-code or low-code platform to build apps rapidly all while under the careful watch of IT. It’s pretty much a win-win situation here. The business side gets to create apps on their own time that will help increase productivity and results while also allowing IT to keep eyes on the software that is being used without needing to have their hands in the weeds of these applications.

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