According to leading global research and advisory firm Forrester, in the U.S. alone there will be a deficit of 500,000 developers by 2024 (How To Harness Citizen Developers To Expand Your AD&D Capacity, Forrester Research, Inc., April 19, 2017).
Across all industries and global markets, the demand for software is skyrocketing higher and faster than traditional Java or .NET developers can keep up with. IT departments can only manage to maintain the necessities of enterprise organizations to keep the ship running smoothly, leaving sales, customer service, marketing, and field operations departments behind with their needs unmet.
Here’s some good news--there’s a solution. With the rise of low- and no-code application development platforms, it’s never been easier for business end-users to create their own IT solutions. Without the need for manual coding, we’re all citizen developers now.
The citizen developer is a user who builds applications to facilitate the processes of business operations while following the development guidelines of IT. Unlike a professional developer, they may not have formal training in programming, and developing may not be part of their actual job description. They think of creative ideas to improve areas of business such as customer relationship management, internal operations and product development.
You can probably recognize citizen developers all around you already. Maybe they have already been experimenting with various configurations of Excel sheets to improve processes.
This could also be a business analyst who is driven to program in their spare time to develop new technologies to grow business. Digital native Millennials who quickly adapt and are receptive to new technology are other common citizen developer profiles.
Based on interviews with 25 leading IT companies, Forrester Research, Inc. identifies 3 citizen developer profiles who each support business in different ways (How To Harness Citizen Developers To Expand Your AD&D Capacity, Forrester Research, Inc., April 19, 2017).
Forrester also asked non-professional developers why they spend their own time developing applications and websites. Some of the most common responses included “I generally enjoy programming and learning about new technologies;” “As part of a personal hobby or pastime;” or “To add innovative solutions into my daily life.” At their core, citizen developers are highly self-motivated individuals who proactively seek opportunities to innovate.
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“The lack of skilled programmers in the workforce is causing a delay of progression in business (long IT backlogs, lack of productivity, a focus on small tasks instead of business goals, etc.). Perhaps the greatest case for citizen developers is that they alleviate this pressure by serving the need for more manpower.
But citizen developers benefit the IT landscape in a number of ways. Here are the 5 biggest benefits of citizen developers.
Equipped with a no-code platform, citizen developers can build web, mobile, and back office applications Check out What Kinds of Applications Can You Build Without Coding? for more on this. Forrester research digs deeper to identify some of the most popular citizen developer use cases (How To Harness Citizen Developers To Expand Your AD&D Capacity, Forrester Research, Inc., April 19, 2017).
The development of administrative and reporting apps is one area where citizen developers can be of greatest use within enterprise organizations.
These are applications that currently run on spreadsheets or database tools, and also include data-tracking and workflow or administrative apps.
With monitoring and coordination from a centralized IT department, citizen developers can successfully step up to the task.
Administrative and reporting applications are so far below the radar of IT in terms of backlog, that without citizen developers to step in they would never make it to production. More hands from the business side of things can knock these off the backlog, and leverage their business expertise to innovate faster and speed digital transformation organization-wide.
To set the record straight, citizen developers should not replace IT departments or professional programmers. Nor should they contribute to the problem of “shadow IT”, the presence of applications running throughout an organization that are outside of the control of the IT department. The role of citizen developers is meant to lessen the burden on IT department backlogs so that IT can maintain focus on larger, more complicated projects.
But precautions must be taken so that citizen developers do not create a shadow IT situation. Shadow IT can of course lead to increased security risks, lack of modernization, standardization, and slow implementation, lack of internal support, and software upgrades that damage other areas of the organization’s IT infrastructure, to name a few.
To prevent shadow IT, the IT department needs to provide a controlled environment for citizen developers to flourish. Citizen developers usually start building their solution until it’s an MVP. To finish and maintain apps, the project transfers to IT.
These pitfalls can be avoided with a secure and centralized no-code platform, which can also be fully monitored by IT. Within an IT-controlled environment, citizen developers can start building solutions through to the MVP stage, when projects can transfer to IT to finish and maintain applications.
Here are some more tips that will ensure that you avoid shadow IT with citizen developers in your organization.
Citizen developers are already technologically savvy and self-motivated learners by nature. It’s what makes them citizen developers in the first place. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t need guidance. Training and mentoring helps citizen developers gain new skill sets, more confidence, and learn new working techniques. The more professional development and guidance you can afford your citizen developers, the better equipped they will be to align with IT’s expertise and the goals of the organization
IT departments can actively collaborate with citizen developers by delegating administrative and reporting apps, for example. IT departments should also generally be actively involved in overseeing citizen developer projects to eliminate the risk of shadow IT and too many unmonitored applications running throughout the organization. While this promotes security and control, citizen developers can also learn from IT by working on projects led by traditional developers.
In order for a citizen development program to live up to its full potential, CIOs and IT managers need to promote the movement throughout the entire organization. This ensures that the culture of the organization as a whole is supportive of the citizen developer movement. Continued support on the organization level is also essential because there is no endpoint to innovation. A successful citizen development strategy leaves room for continued adaptation and improvement, throughout the whole lifecycle of a digital transformation. Citizen development lets even large enterprise organization be more flexible and agile. As long as IT governance is both strong and adaptive, organizations can quickly adapt to any changes that come their way and respond to new opportunities for growth.
Citizen developers should never be handed the tools and set loose to overrun the IT landscape of organizations. They need formalized policies in order to contribute to the full IT ecosystem. With the proper guidance, citizen developers can and will become an important ingredient to a successful and efficient IT strategy.
Is your company ready for citizen developers? Take a look at the Meet Your Citizen Developer whitepaper for tips on finding citizen developers and integrating them with your IT strategy.
Betty Blocks CEO Chris Obdam and John Rymer, Vice President and Lead Analyst at leading global research and advisory firm Forrester have a conversation about how no-code platforms are changing the landscape of application development by providing a solution to “one of the classic problems in IT,” according to Obdam.
Watch the full video here (preview below) to learn what your leadership needs to stay ahead of the game in the changing era of app development.