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Milagros Diez Jun 16, 2022 3:22:21 PM 6 min read

WHAT IS CITIZEN DEVELOPMENT?

Citizen Development: The democratization of technological solutions

Nowadays, reinventing and growing are critical actions to the continuity and success of companies, for which speed and agility are necessary. Technological development has opened its borders, and it has become something more and more familiar, ceasing to be an exclusive field for people with programming knowledge. This allows democratization of technology so that more and more people have access to and control over their technological solutions.

Following this idea, a business trend has emerged that encourages organizations and companies to create their applications using a minimum of coding or even no coding at all, to streamline processes and consequently achieve better results. This new vision is called Citizen Development.

Business woman working on laptop

What is Citizen Development?

Citizen development is a business process that encourages employees who do not have an IT background or expertise to become somewhat of a software developer by creating problem-solving business applications through Low Code/No Code software platforms.

In other words, you allow internal teams closest to the problem to develop applications that help them solve their problems or satisfy their business needs, giving them more independence in their work and encouraging their creativity and engagement to face different situations. These employees are known as citizen developers.

 

Who can be a Citizen Developer?

According to Forbes, citizen developers are people within a company with access to a visual integrated development environment (IDE). Within this environment, the citizen developer can drag and drop application components and connect them to generate a new unique web or mobile application.

In fact, if you've heard the term drag and drop before, it is because you've undoubtedly worked with a low-code or no-code platform, which are characterized by allowing users to add components through this method to work on pre-built templates and then assemble an interface, without need to write a lot of code or even a single line of code.

A citizen developer, then, is an employee who creates applications for their use or that of others. It is a person - not a specific title or role - who reports to a business unit or function other than IT.

One of the main obstacles to adopting this new strategy is the thought of giving power or control to people who do not have a technical background. However, citizen development has been a success at the organizational level.

The organization thus adopts, almost intuitively, a new dynamic where both parties collaborate in a holistic and creative way to achieve organizational objectives. The sum of this perspective fosters a new idea regarding human capital: “everyone is a worker capable of contributing to organizational expansion” since employees develop a new feeling of power against new challenges. This feeling directly impacts the way they strive, boosting morale and productivity.

Adopting these new tools empowers those on the front lines of the business, those who have daily contact with customers, as it inevitably closes a gap between these teams and IT people by providing and creating a more comprehensive strategy to solve organizational requirements.

young people during a work meeting

 

What's driving Citizen Development?

This trend of proliferation of low-code or no-code platforms directly results from the accelerating and continuing growth of digital transformation that makes “everyone a developer.” This new modality is far from ending since Gartner estimates that by 2025, 70% of the new applications developed by organizations will use these technologies.

Globalization and the cultural changes it brings with it lead organizations to constantly keep themselves updated and create new and better solutions in complex fields. It is necessary to be at the forefront and anticipate all those situations that may interfere with decision-making. Anticipating new scenarios and viewing human resources from a new perspective is essential.

 

The Origins of Citizen Development

Some mark the beginning of this trend around the year 1982, when James Martin published the book “Application Development without Programmers”, developing the main idea of ​​this whole trend: to open the development environment to a broader population and allow non-developers to create applications by themselves.

Thus, in the 90s, Rapid Application Development (RAD) was born. These stood out as easy-to-learn environments, where end-users had to focus on the graphical interface and business logic was added step by step.

This new modality was polished more and more and it is then that in 2016 the terms "Low-Code" and "No code" are made public: applications with the aim of bringing together the largest possible number of concepts under one roof to make code writing unnecessary, or at least reduce it significantly.

This fact marks the beginning of this digital philosophy that was born with the idea of ​​democratizing technology, with policies that favor visual interfaces and colloquial language so that anyone without programming knowledge can launch their projects on the market.

business app citizen development

 

Advantages of Citizen Development

When we talk about Citizen Development we should think about the following advantages:

  • Cost savings: All solutions are found on a single platform. Relying on software licenses or tools that solve only one aspect is no longer necessary.
  • Freeing up the workload for IT: IT departments have more room to spend their time on more complex tasks that better use their skills.
  • Agility: Applications are maintained and updated faster.
  • Independence: The employee who has the problem can solve it directly, thanks to the autonomy that this trend grants, and thus the entire organization benefits from these new developments.
  • Adaptability: Citizen development allows you to create powerful applications that can grow and adapt according to business needs.

Important considerations about Citizen Development

It goes without saying that like any technological solution if the appropriate and adequate guidelines or barriers are not established, a logical and totally valid fear can arise: “I don't want things to get out of control”. Against this, some points to consider:

  • Security risks: Granting the ability to create innovative technological solutions implies giving up control over specific tasks. As we mentioned, the Citizen Developer can be any employee in the organization, and many don't have the training to address the security issues that their applications need. Given this, it is crucial to have low-code or no-code software that allows an administrator to monitor and control overall security.
  • Need for training: Although this type of solution is designed so that everyone can build and use it without prior technological knowledge, it is necessary to invest in a minimum of training for its correct use and operation. This can be done by including lessons on low-code and no-code platforms in staff training plans. If we put these variables on balance, the cost in terms of time is still much lower compared to the training that involves touching on concepts of greater complexity and depth.

It is clear that the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. When making a choice, it is necessary to keep in mind that one is choosing a solution that will help create a tool that fits the organization's specific requirements, which is something invaluable.

 

The Future of Citizen Development

We have no doubt that the future of digital transformation is through Citizen Development, which, far from being a trend, is something that is here to stay and is getting stronger and stronger.

Organizations need to consider adopting Citizen Development. Giving their workforce the possibility of creating and configuring their own technological applications can provide the agility to adapt to increasingly challenging and changing operational contexts. Of course, certain limits, processes, and governance parameters need to be established so that the solution can deliver the benefits it promises and not compromise the security and operability of the business.

A No-Code Data Management  Solution

Since the conception of our enterprise data management software, AKTEK iO, we have sought to show the world all the benefits that a no-code solution can bring.

With AKTEK iO, we want to give our clients the power to create an information management system that responds to their needs and adapts to their operational contexts. We seek to empower the internal dynamics of companies, causing, almost naturally, that the employees have more and more control of their tools and that they can feel that technology is a great ally. Making available a unique, flexible, intuitive product to improve decision-making for your company is our primary purpose.

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Milagros Diez

As a Tech Talent Scout at AKTEK, I am in charge of finding and attracting the best tech talent globally to join and stay on our team. I am also in constant contact with different areas of the organization since I support issues related to Customer Service, Market Research, and Business Development, among others. This allows me to have a global vision of our company and product.