Citizen developers are non-professional software developers who create or contribute to developing software applications using low-code or no-code platforms.
These developers have been gaining attention in recent years due to their ability to drive business agility and innovation without relying on traditional software engineers, and they are already looking to dominate in our current job market.
“…by 2024, 80% of technology products and services will be built by those who are not technology professionals.”
The rise of citizen developers has been fueled by;
- the growing demand for software solutions across various industries
- the increase of technical debt that many software development professionals find themselves having to clear (thus taking them away from developing new features and solutions),
- and the shortage of software development skills in the marketplace to keep up with the demand.
By using no-code or low-code platforms along with a team of citizen developers, development efficiency can be enhanced by 50%-90% (according to a study by 451 Research).
Citizen developers have unique domain expertise and can collaborate effectively with IT developers to create digital solutions that cater to specific business needs, and lessen the IT backlog. They can help speed up development, cut down costs and improve productivity and the effectiveness of work, therefore reducing the burden on IT teams.
However, there are concerns about the governance of citizen development programs, given that citizen developers are non-professionals who lack formal training.
To address this issue, companies need to establish sturdy governance policies to manage developers and put measures in place to ensure the quality of work customers expect is maintained. According to Budibase (an open source low-code platform for building modern internal applications in minutes) governance falls into the following four categories:-
- Policy-level governance – The rules, principles, and goals that underpin your citizen development program.
- Process-level governance – The specific procedures that employees follow when creating, sharing, or using custom solutions.
- Technical governance – How the specific tools you provide to citizen developers determine the actions they can take.
- Monitoring, review, and oversight – Any measures your IT team puts in place to oversee and assess the implementation, process adherence, output, impact, and value of your citizen development program.
As well having a governance policy it is advisable to assign a leader to be accountable for the policy’s definition and implementation.
It is also necessary to be aware of the fact that citizen developers may lack the technical skills and problem-solving skills necessary to develop complex applications and ensure they are ran smoothly. In order to over come this challenge and not increase the problem of technical debt (that citizen developers are brought in to alleviate), companies need to provide appropriate on-going training and support for their teams of citizen developers.
Gartner has reported that many organisations have adopted or are planning to adopt citizen development initiatives, enabling business users to develop innovative applications that can save time and increase productivity without coding expertise. And this is a trend that we only see getting bigger over the next couple of years as the development and uptake of generative AI tools (such as GhatGPT and GitHub’s Copilot) also increases.
So the questions is: do you have a team of citizen developers yet?