Part of running a business is looking for better ways to optimize your business process goals. And when it comes to creating applications, some companies are turning to citizen development in an attempt to streamline efficiency and improve their system-wide use of technology. But what is citizen development, and is it a good idea for your organization? Here’s what to know about citizen development and its possible benefits and risks.
Understanding the Citizen Development
What is citizen development?
Citizen Development is a framework for organizational progress where non-IT employees are encouraged to design and build applications using low-code or no-code tools, regardless of app-building experience.
If you have an existing IT team, then they’ll be the ones supplying approved citizen development tools and guidance. It will be your non-technical employees, however, who will be responsible for app design and development, building solutions that are directly targeted toward recognized internal needs.
Citizen developers are entrusted with an essential role in meeting the demands of your business. And in doing so, they may be able to accelerate core digital transformations without the need to hire additional skilled programmers. This could potentially be a win for smaller businesses that don’t have the budget to invest in heavily staffed IT departments, though it’s not without its risks, particularly in terms of app quality, security, and scalability.
Tools for the Citizen Developer vs. Professional Developer
While professional developers often build code from scratch, citizen developers create applications using low-code or no-code tools that have been pre-sanctioned by IT (either an in-house or third-party team). In that way, citizen developers may be able to support company growth not through their technical skills per se but through the insight they have into their department’s needs and the business processes they support.
The low-code and no-code technology used by citizen developers has been developed to allow non-IT employees to contribute to app development, even without formal training or programming credentials. These sorts of tools are quickly becoming a mainstay of large enterprises, 75% of which are expected to use at least four low-code development tools for IT application and citizen development by 2024.
In addition to these tools, citizen developers bring non-technical expertise to the table that professional developers might not be able to offer. And for businesses feeling left behind by app development, there’s a possibility that citizen developers can help quickly fill in technological gaps without the need for added IT support.
Low-code tools, however, aren’t simply for the benefit of non-technical employees. Professional developers also use them so that they can quickly and efficiently deliver a high volume of new applications. Low-code technology is designed to facilitate app development for everyone within an organization, from IT departments to teams not specifically focused on tech.
Major Citizen Development Benefits and Risks
Strong citizen developers are analytical thinkers with the ability to recognize high-value business needs and a willingness to search for new solutions to existing problems. With one or more on staff, you may be able to achieve a whole range of benefits for your business, but it’s important to keep potential risks in mind, too, before diving in.
Benefits of Citizen Development
- Faster app development - Citizen developers could meet the growing technological needs of a business without complex coding requirements, allowing organizations to adapt quickly to changing industry and client expectations.
- Workaround to the shortage of professional programmers – A shortage in unemployed talent means that few skilled developers are available to take on new jobs, especially at companies without extensive budgets and resources. Citizen developers offer a potential solution, providing businesses with a larger pool of app creators without the need for new hires.
- Boosted business productivity – Citizen development could help businesses build more custom apps, including those that help employees do their jobs more efficiently, reduce operation costs and IT backlogs, and help customers get what they need.
Risks of Citizen Development
- Questionable app quality – There’s a reason programmers get paid as they do. Without the training of a professional coder, citizen developers may fall short of ensuring the quality and functionality of the apps they build.
- Shadow IT – Much of what citizen developers do is completed without any IT support. This creates the potential for a shadow IT situation, where unapproved apps open up the door to issues IT is at the forefront of preventing, such as data breaches, compliance issues, and malignant code.
- Security and maintenance issues – Citizen developers likely don’t have their fingers on the pulse of relevant cybersecurity issues. This means there’s a potential for creating vulnerable apps and/or apps that put existing security functions at risk. The same goes for app maintenance best practices, with citizen development resulting in tricky performance issues with no simple patching solution.
Try Our Low- and No-Code Tools at Your Business
Citizen development isn’t right for every business, but those that can benefit need the right tools for the job. Our WEBCON Designer Desk and other supportive low-code tools empower users with no prior coding experience to create and deploy customized solutions that align with their unique business needs. Unlock the full potential of your organization with WEBCON's low-code solutions today.
An Alternative Path Towards Successful Business & IT Cooperation
So, how can you reap the benefits of citizen development while avoiding the aforementioned risks? At WEBCON, we have come up with an approach we like to call “Citizen-Assisted Development.”
Basically, this strategy gives the power of creating new business applications to IT while engaging business users throughout the development process. This way, companies can ensure that they have the solutions that will address all of their users’ needs. It’s a strategy that pools strengths, shores up weaknesses, and increases the quality and quantity of results.