Whereas Chris had a coding background, Tim didn’t. Even though Tim was running the operational side of the business, he kept running into problems where he needed his brother or a developer of the team to help. And so, the concept of Betty Blocks was born, making Tim the very first Citizen Developer. The current goal of Betty Blocks still remains the same: enabling tech-savvy business users to solve their own IT problems through no-code. 

Over time, Betty Blocks has transitioned to a low-code approach while retaining its robust no-code capabilities. However, within the industry, there are some disagreements between low-code versus no-code. On the surface, what sets no-code and low-code apart is marketing propositions. The real difference lies within the mind and the way of doing things when it comes to code. A lot of low-code technology still requires users to think like a programmer, so what does the perfect citizen developer look like? 

How Citizen Developers are defined within Betty Blocks 

It's important to differentiate between a citizen developer and citizen development. A citizen developer is a key player in the software development process, while citizen development is an enterprise program that allows decentralized application building outside of the IT department. When citizen development is implemented, three types of personas form fusion teams.

  • Citizen Developers: Mostly configures pre-built templates that are available on the Betty Blocks platform.
  • Business Technologists: Possess the will and knowledge to build full-scale applications on a no-code/low-code platform while still relying heavily on templates.
  • Low-Coders: Jumps in to extend applications created on a low-code platform through the means of traditional coding.

The main difference between the roles mentioned above is that of configuring versus building applications. Citizen developers generally do not have the same mindset as developers. They do not think about technological concepts; rather, they just want to fix their business problems. Betty Blocks turns problem owners into problem solvers, Chris Obdam remarks.

Getting into the developer mindset

Does that mean that every employee will be involved in application development in five years' time? This is perhaps the biggest misconception within the low-code sphere. The respectful fact is that not everyone wants to be a developer, according to Chris. Yes, everyone can build an application, but not everyone wants to do so. It is important to note that citizen development has different steps and maturity levels. This means that there is a lot of effort involved in learning how to use a citizen development platform like Betty Blocks. The best approach is to start out with simple steps and just build an application in a controlled environment. Experienced developers can act as a failsafe to guide the development process to completion. Having non-developers involved in a citizen development program does not make them developers, but it does give rise to a broader developer community when proper training is involved.


Choosing the right platform

What has been successful for Betty Blocks when it comes to training non-developers to get into the developer mindset is focusing on the organizational changes rather than the technological changes. There are thousands of platforms out there that can help organizations build an app. But what is the right choice when it comes to building at scale? Many organizations are looking for a development platform that can accommodate more than just one use case of an application. They are looking for a platform that can handle multiple use cases and facilitate the entire software development lifecycle. Betty Blocks aims to go even further by adding an innovation lifecycle. 

Betty Blocks wants to give organizations the means to capture their business problems early on in the SDLC so they can, in turn, provide a better user experience for a product. From a product management perspective, it is important that a platform allows them to prioritize which applications to build. Rigid low-code tools do a decent job of creating standardized tables, forms, or dashboards but leave little room for customization. Another challenge for most low-code platforms is that they do not offer the ability to design a quality application. Since Betty Blocks supports fusion teams, it is very easy for an organization to set up a team that can cover all these skills. By providing organizations with a so-called no-code toolkit, which includes pre-built templates, themes, and components, they can create applications that immediately adhere to UX design principles. These can be used as guidelines in the creation of future apps.

The ideal problem to solve

Defining which applications to build at scale starts with a company's long-term strategy. Then, they want to make sure that a development platform can facilitate that strategy in a decentralized way to add more value to the application. Low-code platforms give companies the opportunity to tackle problems that often get put on the back burner because they are big enough to be noticed but not big enough to spend resources on to solve them. In that way, medium-sized problems need medium-sized solutions, which low-code platforms lend themselves well to. It’s about solving problems that may seem insignificant but can become mission-critical when they are not addressed properly. It’s the operational process that will ultimately suffer as a result.

Will AI make low-code obsolete? 

There are many speculations about how AI will impact low-code development platforms. When AI was first introduced, many industries feared that it would make software development obsolete, including low-code platforms. However, now that the dust has settled, we can see that AI is taking on the role of an assistant rather than becoming a replacement altogether. Betty Blocks offers users the option to infuse AI capabilities into their app-building process. According to Chris, 70% of app development on Betty Blocks is done in a visual way, especially when it comes to creating user interfaces. Here, AI prompts can be used to find the right template rather than browsing through a library of the various themes that Betty Blocks has available. However, this is by no means replacing low-code entirely with AI; it’s simply using it as a way to speed up the development process. However, speeding up the development process is only a small part of the overall process. AI cannot replace the human part that goes into software development, such as gathering the requirements and knowing which application to build. These are critical factors for being able to build a successful application at scale.

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