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Citizen Developers: New Enterprise Digital Innovation Transformers

By Arooj Shakeel
September 21, 2023
Citizen developers are the non-technical members of the organization who drive digital transformation forward in collaboration with IT.

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In recent years, we have reached a point where only IT business exists. IT is depended on to deliver digitally improved solutions and boost competitiveness as disruptive new technologies and processes place new demands on enterprises. However, with the need for software solutions and apps increasing at an alarming rate, many IT departments still need to meet every request from the business. There is a developer shortage, and it is causing a mismatch between IT interests and organizational choices. What’s the good news? Citizen developers are embracing no-code platforms to overcome the IT-business divide.


Citizen Developers: The New Enterprise Heroes

So, who are citizen developers exactly? These are the non-technical members of the organization who drive digital transformation forward in collaboration with IT. 

Citizen developers have critical thinking skills, appreciate challenges, and need to gain professional coding knowledge. They are essentially non-technical business users who have been enabled by technological democratization to provide easy answers to common problems.

Businesses that use citizen development can expedite software development by using rapid prototyping and a “fail fast” methodology to explore and test new ideas. Companies can generate higher corporate innovation by redefining business models, streamlining operations, and breaking through bottlenecks that plague development efforts by democratizing technology across all departments. According to the research organization, by 2023, the number of “citizen developers” in large enterprises will be four times that of professional developers.

Citizen developers can provide considerable value by doing the following:

  1. Reducing business users’ frustration
  2. Addressing developer scarcity
  3. Preventing business units from falling short of revenue or cost-cutting targets
  4. Advancing digital transformation
  5. Achieving key business transformation objectives
  6. Increasing adaptability to change and productivity
  7. Fostering cooperation and communication to break down silos

Because tech democratization empowers citizen developers to create new solutions, the IT department can devote more time to strategic business initiatives. Using citizen developers to direct more straightforward development tasks can also aid in the prevention of troublesome IT backlogs.


How Citizen Developers Promote Organizational Innovation

Delivering innovative solutions for citizen development does not have to be the sole responsibility of the IT department. 

Here are some of the advantages of citizen-driven innovation:

  1. Swiftness and agility

Citizen developers can create and deploy enterprise-grade solutions that help automate workflows, streamline processes, and ensure business continuity without relying on time-consuming app development methods. This increases the speed and agility of innovation.

  1. User Requirements and App Design

When it comes to digital innovation, the ideal app must cater to each user’s specific needs. Citizen developers are not technical evangelists but business experts who understand the systems they work with and their daily challenges. As a result, the apps they create are based on real-world data and their firsthand experience with the problems they want to solve.

  1. Economic Business Innovation

According to a Prophet poll, 28% of businesses consider digital transformation a cost center. Citizen development, in addition to accelerating application development, can reduce costs by utilizing available resources to develop, release, and manage business-critical apps. 

When businesses can rely on their existing staff to achieve their goals, the need to outsource, hire additional technical resources, or invest in third-party software is significantly reduced.


Citizen Developers Enable Innovation, but What Enables Them?

Because of Low-Code No-Code development approaches, citizen developers can deliver solutions with little to no technical expertise. Low-Code and No-Code (LCNC) platforms are distinguished by intuitive, visual interfaces with drag-and-drop functionality, allowing anyone with little to no coding experience to create sophisticated web and mobile applications. Microsoft has high hopes for Low-Code, predicting that 450 million out of 500 million apps will be built using no-code/low-code over the next five years.

Gartner predicts that low-code and no-code technologies will triple by 2025.

Traditional development models frequently necessitate extensive collaboration between IT and business teams, resulting in a “loss in translation” effect. LCNC, on the other hand, allows the business to collaborate with IT to co-create applications, thereby streamlining the development process. The additional talent provided by LCNC allows IT professionals to focus more on governance and control. As a result of the shorter development cycle, rapid prototyping is possible, allowing concepts to become a reality more quickly and economically.

Citizen Developers: New Enterprise Digital Innovation Transformers

The following are some of the potential benefits of LCNC for businesses:

  • Rapid market entry
  • Capabilities for rapid prototyping and “fail fast.”
  • Process optimization and workflow automation
  • Savings on expenses
  • Increased enthusiasm for innovation

The democratizing effect of LCNC can also foster an environment of autonomy and ownership among employees and create new opportunities for recognition and career advancement.


How Citizen Developers Solve Technical and Business Issues

While some have raised concerns about the challenges of citizen development, ranging from security concerns to quality concerns, the consensus is that building a citizen development workforce benefits businesses, especially when done carefully. 

The primary focus of the discussion of this new role within organizations is on the technological problems that can be solved, such as application development and relieving some of the burdens from IT teams.

However, the larger picture is about solving business problems, such as increasing revenues while decreasing costs, becoming more efficient, and gaining a competitive advantage. All of these initiatives can benefit from citizen development. Accelerated time to market allows for greater speed, agility, and competitiveness. Another rarely discussed topic is employee satisfaction, which can contribute to lower costs and higher productivity.

All of these factors should be considered by businesses when deciding whether or not to launch a citizen development program. This role will become more integrated across industries in the coming months and years.

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