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Citizen Developers: Blessing or Curse?

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Citizen Developers: Blessing or Curse?

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It's hard to deny the impact that Citizen Development is having on the world. From innovative new products and services to increased productivity and efficiency, the rise of a new breed of developers is changing the way we do business.

But with great power comes great responsibility, and with so much potential for good, there's also the potential for harm. So, what are Citizen Developers - a blessing or a curse?

What are Citizen Developers?

A Citizen Developer is a person who creates software applications without formal training in programming or software engineering. In short: He can not code (at least not much).

A Citizen Developer typically has a domain-specific expertise, such as in healthcare or finance, and uses low-code software platforms or other rapid application development tools to create applications that solve digital problems specific to their domain.

While Citizen Developers are not professional programmers, they are often able to use specific low-code software platforms to create high-quality digital apps due to their deep knowledge of the domain they are working in. Additionally, they typically have less difficulty understanding and using software development tools than people with no prior experience in programming.

The term "Citizen Developer" was coined by Forrester Research analyst Paul Hamerman in 2006.

citizen developers definition

The Benefits

Citizen Developers are business users who use low-code software tools to develop (not code) apps to solve business problems without the help of professional developers. They can be a valuable asset to any organization, providing a number of benefits.

Great Business Knowledge

First, they are more in tune with the needs of the business than professional developers. They understand the workflows and processes of the organization and how best to automate them. This intimate knowledge of the business (and needed data) makes them ideal candidates for developing apps that will actually be used by employees.

High Flexibility and Agility

Second, they are usually more responsive to changes and requests than professional developers. Because they are not equally as bogged down by bureaucracy or red tape as other groups inside your company, they can quickly turn around applications that meet the changing needs of the business. Still there is a need for effective management, clear structures and governance not to create data security breaches or shadow IT.

Fresh Perspective

Finally, Citizen Developers often bring a fresh perspective to application development. They aren't afraid to try new things and experiment with different approaches. This creativity can lead to the development of innovative solutions that would never be considered by professional developers.

Citizen Developers are a valuable asset to any organization. By harnessing this power, organizations can improve their agility, responsiveness, and creativity.

The Challenges

There's no doubt that Citizen Development is becoming more and more popular, as it offers a cost-effective and efficient way to build custom applications via easy to use software platforms like Microsoft Power Automate.

However, there are still some challenges that need to be addressed in order for a Citizen Developer to truly thrive.

Lack of Expertise

Companies frequently underestimate the set of abilities needed by a worker to succeed as a Citizen Developer.

One of the biggest challenges is the lack of technical skills. While many are able to learn the basics of application development, they often lack the deeper technical skills needed to build truly complex applications. This can limit the kinds of apps that Citizen Developers are able to build, and hamper their ability to keep up with the latest trends and technologies.

But in addition to this clear flaw at the technical level, there are also deficiencies at the level of methodological, logical, and disciplinary knowledge.

However, the aforementioned gaps can be closed relatively easily with appropriate Citizen Development Training.

citizen developers cons lack of expertise

Lack of Governance & Control

Another challenge is the lack of governance and control. Because (almost) anyone can be a Citizen Developer, it can be hard for organizations to keep track of who is building what, and ensuring that all applications meet compliance standards.

This can lead to security risks and data breaches, as well as a general feeling of chaos within an organization.

Therefore, it is crucial to carefully consider how Citizen Development may be included in the company's overall automation strategy and which roles & responsibilities are needed.

Despite these challenges, there's no doubt that Citizen Development is here to stay. By addressing these challenges head-on, we can ensure that it continues to thrive and provide value to organizations around the world.

Who Makes the Best Citizen Developer?

There's no doubt that Citizen Development can be extremely beneficial to organizations. They can help fill gaps in the IT department, develop custom applications quickly and efficiently, and empower employees to solve problems on their own.

However, not all are created equal. When it comes to choosing who should fill this role within your organization, there are a few key qualities you should look for.

  • First and foremost, the best Citizen Developers are those with a strong desire to learn. They're constantly exploring new technologies and trying to find ways to apply them to business problems.
  • They're also excellent communicators, able to explain complex concepts to non-technical stakeholders.
  • Finally, they have a track record of successful projects - they know how to get things done, even under tight deadlines.

If you can find someone within your organization who meets these criteria, you've got a potential citizen developer who can make a real difference for your business.

How to Grow Citizen Developers?

If you're interested in encouraging employees in your organization, there are a few things you can do.

First, provide Citizen Development training and support so that employees have the digital and personal resources they need to be successful.

Second, make sure your development tools are user-friendly and accessible; if they're too complicated, employees will be discouraged from using them.

Finally, create a culture of innovation where creativity is encouraged and recognized; this will help to foster a community within your organization.

If you want to know more about this, please read our other article about Citizen Development Strategy and Citizen Development Training.

Curse or Blessing?

The answer depends on your perspective. If you're a company owner or part of the management looking to cut costs and increase efficiency, then Citizen Developers are definitely a blessing. On the other hand, if you're a consumer who values privacy and data security, then they could be a curse, without the right implementation.

Ultimately, it's up to each company and how carefully it approaches Citizen Development.

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