The Rise Of The Citizen Developer To Accelerate Business Efficiency
According to management consulting firm , the global talent shortage is expected to reach $85.2 million by 2030, with companies around the world standing to lose over $8 trillion in lost revenue due to a lack of skilled workers. The main cause is that most organizations’ operations are supported by software despite an overwhelming lack of software developers and engineers.
There are a number of ways businesses are overcoming this obstacle. One is by hiring short-term contractual software engineers or freelance developers. But the alternative option—and one that is growing in popularity—is by paving the way for citizen developers.
According to , “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. A citizen developer is a persona, not a title or targeted role.”
By deploying a citizen developer program, businesses can accelerate product development and improve internal workflows by training a diverse range of employees in low-code/no-code (LC/NC) software tools. Complex coding practices that rely on highly skilled developers, data scientists or engineers can be replaced with LC/NC tools, enabling individuals who are not trained in formal programming or machine coding to utilize simpler development formats to test and build low-complexity, customer-centric applications. The citizen developer movement not only helps combat the rising expectations for rapid product development but brings employees closer to a company’s business goals and customer demands.
Recent years have seen demand for software applications very quickly outpace development, which has traditionally lived in the domains of IT departments, conducted by engineers with years of training in traditional complex software tools. However, with digital transformation high on C-suites’ agendas, the demand for easy-to-use, reliable and secure software is rising dramatically. Looking only to experienced developers is no longer an effective option for businesses wanting to remain agile.
With business leaders facing pressure to deliver new innovative applications, we will see citizen developers emerge as a popular choice to drive app development. In fact, by 2023, the number of citizen developers in large companies will be at least that of professional developers.
In order to achieve a successful citizen developer program, businesses must find an internal framework that allows for it. They must remove the IT bottleneck by putting in place a simple but effective system to review new proposals created by citizen developers and have it approved by management. Key questions to consider in your review framework include:
• What data does this system/tool require access to in order to work effectively, and does this align with our company’s terms and conditions?
• Does this system/tool share data with third parties that would be outside of our company’s terms and conditions?
Businesses must also ensure that their system has an effective internal user permissions policy for their software/tools with an “Editor Role.” The key is to give your citizen developers a path to move quickly, without everyone in the company having too much access. Therefore, it’s important to have clear definitions of the tools, a general understanding of the main use cases of the existing tools and a process for getting editor access versus reader access. This allows citizen developers to see how they can connect systems to reduce manual work—one of the best use cases.
It’s also vital to establish your IT and engineering manager “gurus” who can act as easily accessible sounding boards for citizen developers. The majority of systems the citizen developers will want to build will fall outside of their functional managers’ scope, so they will need external support.
Finally, show off their work. Whether in your all-hands or Friday demos, highlight the citizen developers’ work and its impact. This will show all your employees that this type of work is celebrated.
There are a whole host of reasons to start a citizen development program. First and foremost, it takes the pressure off IT teams, who are already busy focusing on driving wider digital transformation initiatives and governing the business’s infrastructure. With citizen developers taking on app development, IT teams have freed up time to focus on more complex projects.
Secondly, it accelerates time to market. Citizen developers make way for a new agile approach to product development: It gives employees the ability to solve business needs quickly, enabling the business to remain competitive and efficient. It also drives productivity and innovation. With the intuitive user interfaces of LC/NC software, your citizen developers can start testing new ideas in days (rather than weeks), allowing businesses to adapt quickly to changing demands and seize new opportunities.
Finally, it reduces costs. By making use of resources in-house, and empowering existing employees, your business will no longer need to outsource work or hire freelance engineers or contractual developers.
We have also built an aggregated, analytics-based external API that citizen developers can leverage in many different ways. The support team has built internal front ends using the API for faster troubleshooting, and our data science team has leveraged this in tandem with our Metabase BI tool for visualization. We’ve even recently had a citizen developer from revenue operations use this API for usage data that is then consumed by Salesforce.
Over the next decade, citizen development is expected to be a critical pillar of most modern enterprises. The skills shortage is showing no signs of improvement in the next few years, so for businesses looking for ways to address a shortage of software developers in a cost-effective way, employing citizen developers is a no-brainer.
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