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The Rise of Citizen Developer: Why should businesses care in 2023?

  • Featured Insights
  • July 20, 2023

Who is a Citizen Developer?

A citizen developer is someone in the workplace who takes the initiative to create application features for themselves or their colleagues, using tools that are allowed by IT or business units.
It’s more of a persona than a specific job title or role.
Citizen developers typically work in a business unit or function that is not IT-related.
Think of citizen developers as individuals who have a knack for combining business knowledge and technology. They understand how to leverage tools and software to build useful applications that benefit their team or organization.
However, not everyone with business technology skills falls under the category of a citizen developer. It’s a specific subset of business technologists who actively engage in application development.
What’s interesting about citizen developers is that there are no strict requirements for proficiency or allocated time for their development activities.
They can be anyone within the organization who has the legal status of an employee. This flexibility allows employees from various backgrounds and departments to contribute their expertise and creativity to the development process.

Why should businesses care about the rise of citizen developers?

Citizen Development offers several benefits that can greatly impact businesses in today’s digital landscape. Let’s explore them together:

Faster Development: 

One of the key advantages is the ability to bring new applications to the market much more quickly. 
According to Gartner’s prediction, by the year 2024, low code application building is expected to dominate over 65% of all app development functions. Additionally, approximately 66% of large companies are projected to utilize at least four low code platforms.
This accelerated speed gives businesses a competitive edge in today’s fast-paced world.

Resource Efficiency:

Citizen Development not only speeds up development times but also helps businesses save money.
By empowering employees to create applications themselves, organizations can free up valuable IT resources to focus on more strategic initiatives. 
This efficient allocation of resources enables businesses to make the most of their talents and drive innovation.

Cost Savings:

Citizen Development brings significant cost savings to businesses.
A survey conducted by QuickBase found that 62% of Citizen Developers believe they can develop applications faster than traditional developers.
Additionally, Gartner reports that Citizen Development can reduce application development costs by up to 90%. 
Such substantial savings can have a positive impact on the bottom line and provide organizations with more financial flexibility.

Cross-Functional Collaboration and Innovation: 

Citizen Development fosters cross-functional collaboration within an organization.
It empowers employees to develop their skills and explore new roles, promoting a culture of innovation.
By embracing Citizen Development, companies can nurture talent, encourage collaboration, and enhance employee satisfaction.

Enhanced IT Team Productivity

Citizen development significantly boosts the productivity of IT teams within an organization.
By enabling non-technical employees to create their own applications, IT departments can offload some development requests and concentrate on more complex and strategic projects.
This redistribution of tasks allows IT professionals to effectively allocate their time and expertise, leading to increased efficiency and productivity. 
Additionally, a collaborative approach between IT teams and citizen developers fosters a symbiotic relationship where technical expertise and business knowledge complement each other. This synergy makes IT teams more agile and responsive to organizational needs, resulting in the timely delivery of value-added solutions.

Exploring the Reasons Behind the Emergence of Citizen Developers!

Increasing demand for customization and agility: 

The modern business landscape is characterized by its rapid and unpredictable changes, driving organizations to seek adaptable and tailored solutions. 
Citizen development has emerged as a powerful response to this challenge, allowing businesses to swiftly develop applications customized to meet their specific needs without solely relying on IT departments. 
By embracing citizen development, companies can maintain their competitive edge by quickly responding to market shifts and evolving customer demands.

Democratizing innovation: 

The democratization of innovation is one of the remarkable benefits of citizen development. 
This approach empowers individuals from diverse departments to actively contribute to the creation of innovative solutions. 
Leveraging no-code or low-code platforms, business users can transform their domain expertise into practical applications, breaking down barriers that once limited innovation to a select group of technical experts. 
By unlocking the collective creativity and problem-solving capabilities of a broader workforce, organizations can cultivate a culture of innovation and harness untapped potential.

Bridging the IT gap:

The growing demand for new applications often overwhelms traditional software development processes, leading to resource bottlenecks and lengthy backlogs for IT departments.
Citizen development serves as a crucial bridge to address this challenge by empowering non-technical individuals to take charge of application development. 
With the ability to create and deploy applications independently, these users relieve the burden on IT teams, resulting in more efficient resource allocation, faster turnaround times, and smoother development workflows.

Empowering business users:

Citizen development not only bridges the technical gap but also empowers business users by making application development accessible to those without extensive coding knowledge. 
The increasing user-friendliness of no-code and low-code platforms enables employees from various business units to actively participate in the creation of applications.
This newfound empowerment fosters a sense of ownership and accountability among team members, elevating job satisfaction, and encouraging a proactive approach to problem-solving and innovation.

Accelerating digital transformation:

Citizen development is a driving force in successful digital transformation. 
Involving business users directly in application development streamlines processes, boosts operational efficiency, and meets market demands. 
This approach enables rapid adaptation to new opportunities and challenges, ensuring a seamless and impactful transformation in the digital age. 
By embracing citizen development, organizations can thrive in an era of continuous change and navigate the complexities of the digital landscape.

The biggest wins – time and money saved

Citizen development is proving to be a game-changer for businesses seeking to optimize their time and financial resources. 
By empowering non-technical users to harness low-code or no-code tools, companies can dramatically reduce their dependency on traditional IT development.
This approach allows citizen developers to create or customize applications without requiring extensive coding knowledge, streamlining the entire development process.
One of the biggest wins of citizen development lies in the considerable time and money saved. 
With business users taking charge of their IT solutions, IT departments can redirect their efforts towards tackling more complex and strategic projects. 
This not only enhances efficiency but also boosts overall productivity, as skilled IT professionals are no longer bogged down by routine development tasks.

Setting Up Citizen Developers for Excellence!

Achieving a successful citizen development strategy requires a thoughtful and holistic approach, encompassing several key factors to ensure seamless implementation and optimal results.

Establish Organizational Alignment:

To make citizen development effective, it must become a strategic priority that transforms the organization’s mindset and culture. 
Redefining the relationship between business and technology is essential, with IT moving away from being mere order-takers to becoming strategic partners focused on governance, data integrity, and security.
By empowering Citizen Developers to build applications with minimal IT supervision, productivity and efficiency are enhanced while expanding the IT talent pool.

Foster Talent Growth and Advancement:

Identifying the right individuals for Citizen Developer roles is crucial. 
Creating a talent growth model that integrates business and technology enables the development of essential skills and empowers employees. 
Clearly defining responsibilities and career advancement trajectories reduces resistance and encourages employees to embrace new roles.

Implement Comprehensive Governance:

A well-structured governance model is necessary to address scalability, supportability, security, and accessibility of applications built through low-code/no-code platforms. 
A flat organizational hierarchy focused on expertise-based decision-making fosters value creation. 
Metrics for financial and operational performance reward success, and policies balance control with freedom to encourage innovation while ensuring compliance. 
A dedicated center of excellence can provide expertise and facilitate collaboration between IT and business teams.

Adopt a Consistent Initiative Assessment Framework:

A robust framework to assess, prioritize, and track citizen development initiatives is vital to avoid uncontrolled application sprawl. 
Without proper assessment, technical debt and limited adoption may result. 
The framework should include nonfunctional requirements such as security and usability to ensure application quality and avoid potential security and performance issues.

End Note

Citizen development emerges as a game-changer, revolutionizing application development for businesses. 
Empowering non-technical users through low-code and no-code platforms unlocks untapped potential and fosters a collaborative and innovative culture. 
The result is enhanced agility and significant cost savings for organizations.
Embracing this transformative approach propels us towards a future where inclusivity, collaboration, and individual expertise are valued. 
Together, we embark on a journey of digital transformation, driving success and creating a brighter tomorrow for our organization and its entire workforce.
Let citizen development be the driving force that shapes our path to success.