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The term “citizen developer” has become increasingly common among companies accelerating their digital transformation efforts. These people have various roles in organizations, but they share a common ambition: to conceive and build task-based applications that streamline work or improve operations in their business area.
Through their inside knowledge, these employees can generate new web or mobile applications that solve specific business problems and speed up daily work. Citizen developers often use no-code or low-code software to create these applications.
According to Gartner’s prediction, citizen developers will soon outnumber professional developers by a ratio of 4:1. Although these business analysts or business domain experts have no formal training in using development tools or writing code, they are succeeding in creating valuable business applications. Gartner recommends that organizations embrace citizen developers to achieve strategic goals and remain competitive in an increasingly mobile business world.
Despite the rise of citizen developers within organizations, many companies still discount the value and importance of citizen development. Let’s dispel some of the most common myths.
1. Low-code apps can’t compete with enterprise-grade apps
A common myth surrounding citizen development is that low-code applications cannot meet the requirements of enterprise-grade applications. Enterprise-grade applications are designed to support consistent integration with other applications and the existing IT framework, and the term “enterprise-grade” was coined as IT became increasingly consumer. Because low-code development delivers business applications without the need for extensive amounts of programming, the long-standing belief is that low-code does not have the ability to meet business standards. This is not true.
Citizen developers typically create low-code or no-code (LC/NC) applications for a specific business purpose, such as bridging gaps between systems or automating routine processes to improve team productivity. Task-based applications of limited scope are often created by citizen developers, while powerful applications with complex data and security requirements are still produced by professional developers using conventional programming languages. LC/NC software typically comes with pre-built templates or drag-and-drop interfaces that consider development best practices, common business requirements, and routine IT practices. The software guides citizen developers to build the needed apps quickly while adhering to best practices in app design and development. This enables more employees to build great cloud and mobile apps that speed business tasks while minimizing risk to the organization.
As enterprise-grade applications are increasingly designed to be scalable and robust in the environments in which they are used, the technical aspects and pre-built nature of low-code development can match the required standards set by enterprise applications. business level. Thanks to low-code platforms, complete enterprise-grade applications can be developed in a matter of days, helping business executives increasingly make low-code development their most important automation investment.
2. Supposed security risks that accompany citizen development
Security is a vital component of any application. With security breaches on the rise and serious outcomes such as ransomware, addressing security issues should be of paramount importance to any organization considering citizen development. Data security is often the responsibility of IT departments, which identify and migrate any security risks as they develop applications. However, the fact that an application is developed by a citizen developer using LC/NC software tools does not mean that there will necessarily be higher security risks. According to recent forecasts, LC/NC applications will account for 65% of development activity in the next two years. To meet these business expectations, most low-code platforms now come with built-in security features or code scans to enforce standard security practices. LC/NC software tool providers now include a wide range of built-in security features such as file monitoring, user control and code validation.
While security features in LC/NC software are becoming more extensive, IT departments must ensure that any development software used by the company has been vetted and complies with company security policies. Additionally, having an IT approval process for apps before they are officially used could be a wise policy for IT teams to establish.
3. Citizen development creates shadow IT
Another widespread myth about citizen development is the creation of IT groups in the shadows, apart from the designated ones. This means that application development can become unmanaged, ungoverned, and of questionable quality. The reality can be very different. Many organizations struggle with low funding and IT resources. In these cases, citizen development can come to the rescue to provide quick business solutions that meet rapidly changing business needs. The key to overcoming shadow IT risk in these situations is to establish strong governance and collaboration in the process.
Instead of slowing down the efforts of citizen developers, IT teams should encourage these new app builders by providing guidelines and resources for building apps that are in line with IT best practices. One way is to sanction an approved LC/NC development tool. Some LC/NC platforms used by citizen developers are designed to remove technical complexity and provide full transparency, control, and governance, depending on users’ business needs.
LC/NC platforms can also enable a collaborative environment between citizen developers and IT, allowing IT to maintain control over the development process.
A second way to encourage citizen development is to present certifications and badges for citizen developers to celebrate achievements in app design or development.
The True Benefits of Citizen Developers
Citizen developers can accelerate transformation efforts by using LC/NC software to build their own applications. Since citizen developers are often employed in key areas within the organization, they are more aware of unique business needs and therefore can develop mobile apps that are tailored specifically to the business. LC/NC software solutions give virtually any of these employees the ability to create mobile apps and thereby help transform the business. The cost-benefits are enormous.
Companies can introduce innovative applications, save hours of work and attract more revenue. Companies can save a lot of money by not having to hire specialized developers or outsource application development projects. Additionally, citizen developers can use LC/NC software based on pre-built modules that make software development much faster than starting from scratch. This reduces the time required to develop, design, test, and deploy applications.
Citizenship development is not just a fad to dominate IT teams, nor does it mean that employees will be left alone. IT departments can maintain a key and critical role in providing the right resources and supporting the company’s digital transformation efforts. The benefits of citizen development far outweigh the risks.
However, business organizations must foster a collaborative effort between their citizen developer employees and IT departments to meet business needs and maintain a competitive advantage.
Instead of IT acting as a gatekeeper for technical innovation and digital transformation, IT teams should seek to empower and work with citizen developers to solve technical/business problems.
Amy Groden-Morrison is vice president of sales and marketing operations for Alpha Software.
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