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  • Noel Carroll

How Citizen Development Is A Game Changer

Updated: Aug 14, 2021

There was a time not long ago when programming and development skills were considered to be exclusive to software developers. This had its benefits and drawbacks. One of the main drawbacks in this digital transformation era is that the demand for technical solutions on IT personnel continues to add to their backlog and slows development cycles.

So, there is a growing demand for fast development cycles and ways to seek marginal gains over competitors for innovative app development. Luckily, there are a wide range of low-code and no-code (LC/NC) app development platforms available on the market. These support us to reduce the technical barrier within organisation for non-IT employees (or 'citizen developers') to become a key part of sustaining digital transformations and build business applications.

So, what is citizen development?

Citizen development is a term first introduced by Gartner used to describe the recent trend of businesses empowering traditionally non-IT employees to collaborate with IT departments to build business applications. Gartner explains that "a citizen developer is an employee who creates application capabilities for consumption by themselves or others, using tools that are not actively forbidden by IT or business units."

Within organisations, IT departments typically sanction various tools and security and establish guardrails for application-building process. While citizen development is still in its infancy, there is a growing momentum across industry which is driving significant impact and value.

Citizen development offers significant potential for digital transformation initiatives by empowering employees to bridge the gap in meeting growing demands for new applications to meet client needs. However, developing an application from concept to launch is a complex process that requires specific guidelines to really take advantage of LC/NC app-building solutions. LC/NC development accelerates and expands digital transformation and enables nontechnical users to deliver automation solutions for their organisation. In doing so,

Why citizen application development?

Digital transformation has become a core priority for CEOs in recent years. But just as the pandemic accelerated the need for change though digital transformation, it laid bare the massive global shortage of skilled software developers needed to deliver and operationalise transformations. Against this backdrop, we are witnessing the growth of citizen development across industry of delivering low-code development to accelerate and expand digital transformation. This method hides the sophistication and complexity of coding but empowers subject matter experts to design, develop, and deploy applications into production as though they were full-on, experienced coders. This approach leverages recent advances in technologies such as web technology, artificial intelligence and machine learning to hide code complexity while delivering on code functionality. Citizen development empowers individuals within organisations to create and deliver on opportunities for change and eliminate inefficient processes. Organisations are creating new hyper-agile operating models that enable non-IT developers to create applications in response to business opportunities without dependency on core IT developers.

Citizen development can drive digital transformation by enhancing the organisation’s IT capabilities and reducing the length of the software development cycle. For example, Microsoft PowerApps drives business transformation by helping businesses reduce development costs and increase overall efficiency. A recent Forrester study found that the business of waiting for IT departments to deliver solutions is no longer viable and that benefits from Microsoft PowerApps include:

  • 188% ROI over three years

  • 74% reduction in app development costs

  • 3.2 hours per week average improvement in line-of-business employee productivity

Microsoft’s PowerApps platform supports citizen developers as they work to increase the speed of application development, reduce development costs, and increase worker efficiency. These improvements contribute to overall business benefits like reduced time to market, better customer service, and increased revenues.

Citizen development frees up strained IT professionals, allowing them to focus on innovation and other vital, high-code projects. Additionally, there are times when non-IT employees may have a more accurate understanding of the purpose and audience of the app in question. After all, business users are the end users who are feeling the strain without the business application. When this is the case, it makes sense that those experts would be the ones spearheading the development process — under the guidance and governance of the IT department.

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