What Are Citizen Developers?
What Are Citizen Developers?

What Are Citizen Developers and Why Are They Important?

Citizen developers are becoming increasingly important, especially in this day and age. But what exactly is a “citizen developer,” and why should we care?

Coined by Gartner, the term “citizen developer” refers to business users with varied coding experience who build business-critical applications using no-code or low-code technology.

Traditionally, creating these business applications falls under the responsibility of the IT department. There are several benefits to citizen development, ranging from financial benefits to increased and closer collaboration between teams, and the tools used for citizen development are typically sanctioned by IT staff.

This separates it from shadow IT, which refers to digital asset creation, coding or development which occurs without the knowledge or approval of the IT department. Citizen developers are generally employees who have a thorough understanding of their department’s needs and address those concerns specifically.

Increased popularity of citizen development

According to Garner’s Low-Code Development Technologies Evaluation Guide from 2019, 75% of large enterprises will use at least four low-code development tools for IT application development and citizen development by 2024.

Why is this gaining popularity today?

With COVID-19 shaping the workplace in unprecedented manners, there is an increased need to create applications quickly. As organizations struggled to comply with new rules and regulations regarding employee safety, attitudes regarding low-code and no-code tools have changed. Corporate technology leaders have realized the efficiency that citizen developers can offer.

In a broader sense, advances in machine learning and cloud computing mean that low-code tools can be used for many more applications that support business processes than they could in the past.

No-code and low-code platforms

The line between no-code development platforms (NCDPs) and low-code development platforms (LCDPs) is blurry.

While the definition varies, it is generally agreed that no-code platforms address a specific line of business or corporate branding. These are well-suited to citizen developers who have minimal coding experience but want to build applications. These platforms use drag-and-drop application components that citizen developers can use to easily and quickly build and deploy their business applications. Although they are easier to use, they are suited for simple applications, as the ease of use also limits the level of customization possible in terms of function and capabilities possible.

Low-Code No-Code Development

As the name implies, low-code platforms require users to have more coding expertise or the assistance of the IT department to develop applications. These are still beneficial to organizations, as they do not require as much time and effort from the in-house developers, saving both time and effort on their part. Professional developers also use these platforms to deliver applications more quickly, allowing them to focus on programming that is more complex and can offer their organizations more value.

Collaboration between IT and citizen developers

Although no-code platforms allow citizen developers to create applications without the assistance of the IT team, the best results are often achieved when the two collaborate. This can not only improve the quality of the applications built with low-code tools, it puts organizations in a better position to deploy solutions after vetting them or involving professional developers.

In a different sense, the IT department is a necessary partner to ensure the risk of shadow IT is mitigated. As citizen developers create more workflows and applications, there is potential for the organization to lose control of each and every one. As citizen developers are capable of changing roles or organizations, The IT team should be aware of all solutions being created and retain ownership of them.

The advantages of citizen developers?

There are numerous advantages involved in utilizing citizen developers. 

From a cost perspective, organizations don’t need to employ as many expensive developers with the expertise of building extensive enterprise programs. While the programmers may still provide support, citizen development significantly broadens the number of people who can assist in the organization’s digital transformation. This can also help foster greater collaboration between different departments, as employees work with the IT groups to build new functionalities together.

Citizen developers are equipped with unique hands-on knowledge of specific work processes and business goals that are key to their individual departments. This knowledge means they are more aware of their own critical needs, which in turn helps them zero in on applications that can support and streamline crucial business processes for cost savings and higher productivity.

In line with the idea of increasing productivity, the fact that the low-code no-code platforms are visual processes using pre-built modules means that citizen developers can not only build applications very quickly, but testing the applications is also a faster process. 

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