Citizen Developers – The New Transformers of Enterprise Digital Innovation

10.28.22 By

Digitalization and continuous innovation are essential to rapid growth in the modern digital enterprise. Typically, companies rely on their technical developers and coders to create top-of-the-line apps and solutions that meet their unique business requirements and deliver increased revenue. Delays, cost overruns, and IT / business misalignment can occur if coding requirements aren’t communicated clearly, or there is misinterpretation on the developers’ part. Resource and skill shortages can also lead to bottlenecks in achieving digital transformation and innovation goals.

  • Only around 16% of software development projects are completed on schedule and within budget
  • 80% of US IT organizations encounter resource and skill shortages
  • 44% of chief financial officers think that there is some misalignment between IT and business

IT professionals are undoubtedly critical resources in deploying digital solutions and tools, but skill shortages lead to an unending IT request backlog that is hard to keep up with. In fact, project backlogs inhibit 72% of IT leaders from focusing on crucial projects.

The bottom line – IT cannot be the only engine driving digital transformation anymore.

To effectively support agile and innovative organizations, software development needs to be more open and democratic. Enabling technological democratization across business models is more critical to success than ever before. Innovative ideas can come from every corner of the enterprise and democratization is the best way to tap into them and drive increased innovation across the organization.

This technological democratization has spawned a new breed of enterprise innovators with a DNA designed to thrive in this hyper-competitive digital era. Say hello to “Citizen Developers” – the new enablers of digital transformation across the organization.

Citizen Developers – the New Heroes of the Enterprise

So, who exactly are citizen developers? These are the non-techies of the organization who push digital transformation forward in partnership with IT. Citizen developers are individuals who possess critical thinking, enjoy a challenge, and don’t have formal coding experience. They are essentially non-technical business users empowered by tech democratization to create simple solutions for their everyday challenges.

With citizen development in place, businesses can accelerate software development through rapid prototyping and a “fail fast” approach to explore and test out new ideas. By democratizing technology across all departments, companies can drive increased enterprise innovation by transforming business models, streamlining operations, and breaking through bottlenecks that are plaguing development efforts.

By 2024, 80% of technology products and services will be built by non-technology professionals – Gartner

The research firm also projects that by 2023, the number of “citizen developers” in large enterprises would be four times greater than that of professional developers.

Citizen developers can provide significant value by:

  • Easing the frustration of business users
  • Addressing developer shortages
  • Preventing business units from missing revenue or cost savings targets
  • Accelerating digital transformation
  • Meeting strategic business transformation goals
  • Increasing responsiveness to change
  • Increasing productivity
  • Breaking down silos by promoting cooperation and communication

With tech democratization empowering citizen developers to build new solutions, the IT department can focus more of their time on strategic business initiatives. Utilizing citizen developers to direct more of the straightforward development tasks can also help prevent troublesome IT backlogs.

How Citizen Developers Foster Innovation Across the Organization

With citizen development, delivering innovative solutions doesn’t have to be the sole responsibility of the IT department. Here are some of the benefits of innovation driven by citizen developers:

  • Agility and Speed

    Citizen developers can build and deploy enterprise-grade solutions that help automate workflows, streamline processes, and ensure business continuity without having to rely on traditional app development methods that take months to deliver results. This drives both speed and agility in innovation.

  • Economical Enterprise Innovation

    A Prophet poll revealed that 28% of businesses consider digital transformation to be a cost center. In addition to accelerating application development, citizen development can also lower costs when using available resources to develop, release, and manage business-critical apps. When businesses can rely on their existing staff to achieve their goals, this significantly reduces the need for additional cost outlay to outsource, hire additional technical resources, or invest in third-party software.

  • User Needs Well-aligned with App Design

    When it comes to digital innovation, the ideal app must cater to the unique needs of users. Citizen developers may not be technical evangelists but are business experts with an extensive understanding of the systems they work with and the challenges they experience every day. As a result, the apps they build are based on real-life data and their hands-on experience with the challenges they wish to resolve.

Citizen Developers Empower Innovation, but What’s Empowering Them?

Citizen developers can deliver solutions with little to no technical expertise thanks to Low-Code No-Code development approaches. Low-Code and No-Code (LCNC) platforms are characterized by intuitive, visual interfaces with drag-and-drop functionality, enabling an individual with little to no coding skills to create sophisticated web and mobile applications. Microsoft has high expectations for Low-Code with a forecast suggesting 450 million out of 500 million apps will be built using no-code/low-code in the next five years.

By 2025, Gartner forecasts a roughly threefold increase in the use of low-code and no-code technologies.

Traditional development models typically require a large amount of collaboration between IT and business teams, frequently leading to a “loss in translation” effect. However, LCNC enables the business to collaborate with IT to co-create applications – streamlining the development process. The extra talent that LCNC contributes enables IT professionals to concentrate more on governance and control. The upshot is a shorter development cycle that allows for rapid prototyping, enabling concepts to become reality more quickly and economically.

For enterprises, the potential advantages of LCNC include:

  • Speed to market
  • Quick prototyping and “fail fast” capabilities
  • Improved process efficiency and workflow automation
  • Cost savings
  • Increased momentum toward innovation

The democratizing effect of LCNC can also encourage a culture of autonomy and ownership among employees and generate new opportunities for recognition and career advancement.

  • By 2025, 70% of new applications created by business will be based on LCNC technologies, compared to less that 25% just two years ago.
  • By 2025, it is anticipated that enterprise spending on these technologies will increase to around $30 billion.

Citizen Developer Myth Buster!

Despite the rise of citizen developers and low-code/no-code development, many organizations still have large concerns about embracing this concept. Let’s take a moment to bust some of the most prevalent myths around citizen developers and low-code/no-code development.

  • Low-code Applications Are No Match for Enterprise-grade Applications

    A common misconception about citizen development is that low-code applications cannot meet the standards of enterprise-grade applications – that these apps can’t achieve industry standards because they don’t require extensive programming. A common myth is that the quality and management of application development using these tools can be sloppy.

    The technicality and predesigned nature of low-code development can absolutely match standards set by enterprise-grade apps. Typically, citizen developers build task-based, limited-scope LCNC apps for a specific business purpose, such as bridging gaps between systems or automating routine processes to improve team productivity. Usually, LCNC software comes with predesigned templates or drag-and-drop interfaces that consider best development practices, standard enterprise requirements, and routine IT practices. The software guides citizen developers to quickly create while adhering to these best practices in design and development. As these enterprise-grade apps can be created using low-code platforms in just a few days, business executives are increasingly making low-code development their most important automation investment.

  • Citizen Development Creates Security Risks

    Application security must be of the utmost significance to any organization considering citizen development, given the prevalence of security breaches such as ransomware. However, creating an application employing LCNC software tools does not automatically increase security concerns. Many low-code platforms now have built-in security tools or code scans to enforce basic security standards. LCNC software solution vendors offer features including file monitoring, user control, and code validation. IT departments are often in charge of data security, and they detect and mitigate any security issues during development. Organizations with a citizen development program should ensure their IT department evaluates any development software utilized to ensure it complies with company security protocols.

  • Fear of Shadow IT

    The emergence of shadow IT groups is a big misperception concerning citizen development. Most LCNC platforms remove technical complexity while offering total transparency, control, and governance based on the requirements of business users. Establishing robust governance and collaboration protocols is essential to combat the possibility of shadow IT. It is also important to note that when employing a citizen development program, they should work in partnership with IT – not in separate silos.

Citizen Developer Framework

Starting a citizen development program can absolutely accelerate enterprise digital transformation. Citizen developers are captivated by new developments, adore technology, and are leaders in their respective domains. Who better to create solutions that not only boost innovation, productivity, and efficiency; but also enable the business to quickly respond to market demands without putting undue stress on IT resources.

Bridgenext (Emtec Digital) is the partner of choice for organizations that encourage citizen developers and the LCNC paradigm. Our technology experts can provide your team with the framework citizen developers need to innovate in app development. We can help you build –

  • Quick POCs and MVPs for faster product / application launches
  • Advanced digital frameworks necessary to streamline routine business operations
  • Intelligent data analytics to process structured and unstructured enterprise data and glean actionable business insights
  • Agile RPA solutions to automate critical business processes

Contact our experts today to learn how you can leverage your citizen developers to level up enterprise digital innovation.


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Topics: Digital Transformation, Innovation

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