The Betty Blocks Guide to: Citizen Development

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Who is a Citizen Developer - The Case for Citizen Developers - What Can Citizen Developers Build? - What to do about Shadow IT - Inside the Mind of: John Rymer

According to leading global research and advisory firm Forrester, in the U.S. alone there will be a deficit of 500,000 software 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 users to create their own IT solutions. Without the need for manual coding, we’re all Citizen Developers now.


CitDev PMI Webinar - Definition

Chris Obdam (CEO, Betty Blocks) and Arjun Jamnadass (Head of Citizen Development, FTI Consulting) give their definitions of citizen development.

The Rise of the Citizen Developer

Citizen Developers represent a full-on paradigm shift of how we think about software development, and who can be a developer.

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Who is a Citizen Developer?

Citizen Developers are users who build applications to facilitate the processes of business operations while following the development guidelines of IT. Unlike a professional software 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.

Citizen Developer

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 and get involved in the software development life cycle (SDLC).

Named a Visionary in Gartner 2020 Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Low-Code Application Platforms

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Low-Code Application Platforms 2020 sees Betty Blocks named a Visionary for the second consecutive year among 18 recognized vendors. As Gartner has positioned Betty Blocks highest for ability to execute in the Visionaries Quadrant, we’re proud of our position this year and feel we have proven our platform’s capabilities alongside our vision to democratize citizen development.

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The Case for Citizen Developers

“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. Mainly by utilizing platforms like no-code to bring much needed rapid application development potential.

But citizen developers benefit the IT landscape in a number of ways. Here are the 5 biggest benefits of citizen developers.

  1. They support your company’s ability to react when there is a need for change, by helping to drive digital transformation. Citizen Developers can contribute to applications that automate processes and fully digitize systems.

  2. Speed. Businesses have an ongoing demand for applications and need solutions now. Using a no-code platform, Citizen Developers can build solutions rapidly, easily and effectively using visual modeling, and in a matter of days or weeks, rather than months.

  3. Better alignment between business and IT. Citizen Developers align business and IT by bridging the gap between interests that potentially diverge. Citizen Developers combine business acumen with technical skills to develop applications that have business goals in mind, but work closely with IT to bring ideas to action.

  4. Citizen Developers will only become more valuable as their skills grow to be more advanced in time. The more experience (and more tools) Citizen Developers gain, the more their development skills will expand to deliver greater business value.

  5. Citizen Developers ignite the spark of innovation. Organizations often rely on their IT team or external software providers when they have a need for a new product, but with IT teams bogged down maintaining existing systems there isn’t always room to innovate. No-code platforms enable Citizen Developers to explore new solutions and business models to better serve their own needs and the needs of their customers.

What Can Citizen Developers Build?

Equipped with a no-code platform, Citizen Developers can build web, mobile, and back office applications. Check out the App Gallery for examples of applications built with a no-code platform. 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).

Citizen Developer

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 enter the software development life cycle. 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.

Visit our App Gallery to experience applications built by Citizen Developers with the Betty Blocks platform.


CitDev PMI Webinar - Map

Arjun Jamnadass (Head of Citizen Development, FTI Consulting) on his work with Project Management Institute (PMI). Includes PMI's Citizen Development Canvas.

What to Do About Shadow IT

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.

What to do about Shadow IT

But you have to take precautions so that citizen developers do not create more shadow IT. 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 applications, 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.

Graph Graph Graph
Innovation starts with the business and then transfers to IT. 
IT provides Citizen Developers with a platform for innovation within a controlled environment.

Here are some more tips that will ensure that youavoid shadow IT with citizen developers in your organization.

Citizen Developer training and mentoring

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

Collaboration (and governance) from IT

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.

Continued support

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 or rapid application development projects. A successful Citizen Development strategy leaves room for continued adaptation and improvement, throughout the whole software development life cycle of 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.


CitDev PMI Webinar - Governance

Chris Obdam (CEO, Betty Blocks) on why it's so important for IT to govern citizen development, and how improper governance can lead to shadow IT. 

Is your organization 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.

Inside the Mind of: John Rymer, Forrester Research VP and Lead Analyst

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 rapid application development.