What is a Citizen Developer? Learn to Leverage Citizen Development

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Citizen Development

Empower business experts to build high-impact solutions.

The Need for Citizen Development

Citizen developers are business users with little to no coding experience that build applications with IT-approved technology.

The concept of end-users creating their own solutions might not be new, but organizations understanding the potential impact of empowering citizen developers with more powerful tools is. Organizations are noticing the value of citizen development. According to a recent Gartner report, 61% of organizations either have or plan to have active citizen development initiatives.

Here’s why there’s a growing need for citizen development:

The IT need

Enterprise digitization efforts are more mature – 40% of CIOs have reached scale for their digital endeavors, more than double the proportion of digitally-transformed enterprises from 2018.

The result of a more mature digital business model is a never-ending IT backlog. Research has found that 77% of IT leaders and 71% of business leaders agree that IT teams have a huge pipeline of new IT solution requests, which aren’t being built. In addition to keeping an organization up and running from a technology standpoint, IT is under immense pressure to modernize the existing IT infrastructure and advance their organization’s digital agenda by building new business-critical apps.

The business need

On the other side of the house, business users are fixing their problems by leveraging dated methods such as spreadsheets, desktop databases, etc. Overtime, rampant unchecked development by business users, magnified by the boom of SaaS applications, has resulted in a complex network of solutions that IT has no visibility into.

Citizen Development Changes the Game

When you look at the business impact of IT’s inability to deliver new solutions on time, it puts the rise of citizen development into perspective.

How is the business impacted when IT is not able to deliver new IT solutions in a timely way?

Frustration among forward-thinking employees

Inability to meet key strategic targets

Miss cost reduction opportunities

Loss of competitive advantage

The Benefits of Citizen Development

Through citizen development, IT can partner with the business to build solutions the organization needs - faster and with less rework. The business users know their domain better than anyone else and working collaboratively will ensure that the right processes and technology are in place. When done right, citizen development can help you:

  • Meet the growing need for apps

    Today every company is a software company and needs more applications to improve operational efficiency, drive innovation, and generate revenue. IDC predicts that by 2023, over 500 million apps will be developed. That’s the same number of apps developed in the last 40 years! IT, with its limited resources, is never going to be able to build the apps business needs in time. Citizen Development represents the best bet to overcome this challenge.

  • Address shortage of skilled developers

    With the software developer unemployment rate below 1.9%, there’s a limited pool of skilled developers in the market. The stark shortage of talent puts additional pressure on IT. Organizations that adopt a formal citizen development program address the challenges of talent shortage head-on by empowering non-technical, highly motivated business users to build apps that solve their immediate problems.

  • Govern shadow IT

    Our recent study confirms that 78% of IT and business leaders agree shadow IT has increased greatly over the past 5 years. While the existence of shadow IT is mostly good (yes, it really is), when left unchecked it can create a technical wild west for IT. Instead, IT should govern it using a program like citizen development. When a recognized citizen development program is in place, all those must-have apps are built on IT-approved platforms, giving IT the visibility and control they need to maintain and monitor quality and security.

  • Boost IT and business productivity

    Citizen development provides business users with the approved technology and required IT support to build the basic productivity apps they need. When citizen developers build their own apps, they can perform their job more efficiently, help the company save on operating costs, and help reduce IT backlog. IT is then free to focus on more technically complex projects like legacy modernization, core system extensions, and enterprise-wide applications.

  • Break down silos

    As companies grow, so too do the silos within the organization. There’s already a disconnect between IT and the business. Citizen development can help repair this disconnect by creating an opportunity for business users and professional developers to work collaboratively. For instance, when the app a citizen developer is building on the IT-approved tool gets complex, they can invite a professional developer to help build the complex parts in the same tool.

Citizen Development the Mendix Way

A key component to ensure the success of citizen development is picking the right technology. IT needs to think through the needs of their organization and partner with the business to pick the technology and define the processes that will enable more people to build software the right way. The Mendix low-code platform is uniquely positioned to meet the needs of a citizen development initiative.

Citizen Development in Action

When IT organizations embrace the correct technology, they empower citizen developers to contribute and build apps the right way.

Take Yasmijn Joosten, for example. With no software development background, Yasmijn was able to develop applications that enhanced operational efficiency at Kuehne + Nagel, one of the world’s leading logistics companies.

One of the apps Yasmijn built helps warehouse workers perform their jobs efficiently. It automates an existing manual process and even leverages wearable technology.

The new app saves Kuehne + Nagel time, reduces the potential cost of shipping errors, and supports a more digital way of working.

"What I like about creating is that you see the product grow and turn into a value-adding product for your customers."

Yasmijn Joosten
Mendix Solution Developer,
Kuehne + Nagel

Yasmijn Joosten Fuels Her Passion for Logistics with Mendix

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