Citizen Developers: your secret weapon for digital success

Citizen development is far from being a new concept, in fact, back in 2012 Gartner analysts declared that “We’re All Developers Now” and predicted the acceleration of citizen developer activities. Eight years on and the citizen development movement is in full swing as enterprises worldwide begin to realize their true value. 

So, let’s take a closer look at what a citizen developer is, why they are essential for your company and how low-code application platforms empower these developers. 

What is a citizen developer? 

Citizen developers come in many different forms, they can be from different departments and have different roles within the company. One thing they have in common is that they don’t have formal coding experience or training. They are generally people who can think critically and enjoy a challenge. 

Gartner defines “A citizen developeras a user who creates new business applications for consumption by others using development and runtime environments sanctioned by corporate IT”. 

In short, any non-technical user that creates simple automations for themselves or their departments can be called a citizen developer.  

They only build new applications using technologies that have been pre-approved by IT and their creations can be controlled and monitored which is what differentiates them from shadow IT. In general, their automations are used by their own team or department, although some may have a broader use across the organization. 

How do citizen developers fit into the grand scheme of things?  

Companies can have a combination of people involved in the usage and creation of applications including users, citizen developers, developers from departmental IT teams, central or enterprise IT and fusion teams. Citizen developers sit between the application Users and the trained IT developers and can also form part of a fusion team. 

  • Users: Employees who use the built applications and may offer suggestions for automations or improvements but don’t build them.  
  • Citizen developers: Build applications aimed for individual or team use. 
  • Departmental IT: Trained developers focused on departmental application use cases. 
  • Central/Enterprise IT: Develop enterprise-wide applications, control mentor and help citizen developers improve their technique in addition to overseeing development activity. 
  • UX designer: Focuses on the user experience 
  • Fusion Teams: combine citizen and professional developers for optimal application development. 

Why are citizen developers so important? 

Citizen developers play a unique role in application development as they understand pain points and inefficiencies from their own experience and can detect needs that others can’t. Furthermore, they can help ease the load for professional developers.  

Here are the top three reasons why citizen developers are so important when it comes to application development:

1. No one knows the job better than the person who performs the task

Citizen developers know exactly what their applications will be used for, how people should interact with them, what data is needed, etc. as they are the ones with  first-hand experience of the task that needs automating or application that will empower them to work more efficiently. One of the greatest challenges for pro-developers is their lack of insight into the real problem and the ability to sketch out all the steps involved in a particular process.  

2. IT do not have the time or the resources to build all the applications requested from each department. 

Professional developers can only do so much, therefore citizen developers can ease their workload by playing their part in digital transformation. You can give your IT department precious time by handing the reins to citizen developers and empowering them to build personal or team applications themselves. This will give your professional developers the chance to focus on bigger projects such as reducing costs and gaining a competitive advantage through digital transformation. 

3. Scale faster 

More widespread application development will undoubtedly help drive digital transformation and scale the use of technologies faster than the traditional and slow top-down rollout.

What do Citizen developers need to be successful?  

Citizen developers can’t do it alone. They need the right tools, support and encouragement to be successful. Let’s take a closer look at their needs.

1.The tools

Here are some important features to make life easier for our citizen developers. 

  • Low code. Their lack of technical knowledge means that they need intuitive software to make it simple for them to create applications. Low-code or no-code platforms with drag and drop instead of coding are a must at this point.  
  • Wizards and tips. Helpful hints to point the citizen developer in the right direction or flag mistakes can save them a lot of time and frustration. 
  • Templates. Using pre-built templates ensures standardization and saves time. 
  • Re-usable components. Many parts of an application can be used again in other applications. Why start from scratch when you can copy and element and modify it slightly to fit the new application. 
  • Collaboration options. At some point, a citizen developer may need help, whether it be from an interface designer or a technical expert for perhaps integration assistance, so it is important to make this collaboration efficient and effective. 
  • Monitoring and governance. Security is paramount and one of the biggest concerns for IT when it comes to citizen development, therefore it is essential to have features for monitoring application development, guardrails and permissions to ensure compliance

2. The time and support

Citizen developers will need time and support to experiment with  their creations. 

A glowing example of this is an AuraQuantic customer in the financial services sector. They began by asking the managers from each office to recommend people in their teams who they felt would make great citizen developers. They started with a small team and now have a have a growing network in place across 13 offices throughout the UK.  

The beauty of using AuraQuantic low-code platform is that the company is developing it for themselves and feel certain that great ideas will continue to flow. So far, the positivity and enthusiasm of the teams has been brilliant. 

The company describe their network of citizen developers as:  

  • The eyes and ears of AuraQuantic on the ground 
  • Functionality and look-and-feel experts 
  • A helping hand for new starters 
  • Communicators 
  • Training advisors 
  • Testers 
  • Feedback sharers 

We can safely conclude that citizen developers will play a key role in digital transformation projects and will help accelerate and scale hyperautomation throughout the enterprise. They will not be the only developers involved in company transformation and will need the right tools, support and governance to play their part effectively and unlock greater digitization potential than ever before possible.