Is the Citizen Developer Movement Hype?

is the citizen developer movement hype that will soon be forgotten, or a real valid business movement?There’s been a lot of words written about so-called citizen-developers, non-technical business experts who use low code or no-code rapid mobile application development tools (RMADs) to build mobile apps instead of having to wait while IT writes them. But talk is one thing and facts another. What is the truth about citizen developers — is the citizen developer movement hype that will soon be forgotten, or a real valid business movement?

A new survey, “The Rise of the Empowered Citizen Developer” by Unisphere Research and sponsored by Kinote, has some answers. And they all point in the same direction: Citizen developers have become a vital part of enterprise mobile app development and will become even more so in the future.

The survey found that citizen developers are alive, well and thriving in enterprises. Some 76 percent of respondents said at least some applications at their companies were being developed outside of IT. Only 16 percent said that there were attempts in their businesses to “clamp down on citizen development activity.” In a little over 25 percent of companies there is no formal policy in place regarding citizen developers, while in 42 percent, “non-IT app development is allowed, or in some cases, actively encouraged.”

There’s lots of evidence in the survey to explain why the movement is gaining steam. It found that citizen developers get applications written and out the door faster than do IT departments — in only a few weeks to a few months, say 34 percent of respondents. Only 17 percent say that it takes more than three months.

The survey also found that IT departments are in the dark about how badly they’re viewed by the rest of the organization. Some 35 percent of non-IT respondents, for example, are unhappy with IT’s speed of app delivery, while only 16 percent of IT respondents cite it as a problem.

It’s not surprising, then, to find out why business analysts and domain experts turn to writing their own apps. Some 42 percent say it’s because the IT department has been too slow in writing them, while 33 percent say it’s to find new modes of personal productivity, and 32 percent say it’s because of budget constraints put on formal app development.

As a result of all this, “One-third of organizations are highly proactive in supporting their citizen developers with training and platforms,” the survey found. And 84 percent of respondents want to see their companies do more to encourage and support citizen developers.

Lots of other research backs up this survey’s findings. For example, Gartner says that by 2018 more than half of all B2E mobile will be written by citizen developers using RMAD tools.  And here's an infographic on citizen development by the University of Alabama at Birmingham Information Systems Program that is full of research data and statics about the power of - and expected growth of - citizen development.

I recently wrote a white paper with extensive industry and analysts research statistics about the mobile app explosion in enterprises, the overwhelming demand on IT for business apps, and how companies are empowering line of business workers to eliminate the backlog in my comprehensive white paper "Citizen Developers: The Democratization of Mobile and Web App Development."

To read more about the rise of citizen developers, read my related blogs Why Writing Your Own Apps (By Citizen Developers) is the Next Business Trend and Need More Business Apps? The Democratization of App Development.

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How to Reengineer Yourself as a Mobile Developer

About Author

Amy Groden-Morrison
Amy Groden-Morrison

Amy Groden-Morrison has served more than 15 years in marketing communications leadership roles at companies such as TIBCO Software, RSA Security and Ziff-Davis. Most recently she was responsible for developing marketing programs that helped achieve 30%+ annual growth rate for analytics products at a $1Bil, NASDAQ-listed business integration Software Company. Her past accomplishments include establishing the first co-branded technology program with CNN, launching an events company on the NYSE, rebranding a NASDAQ-listed company amid a crisis, and positioning and marketing a Boston-area startup for successful acquisition. Amy currently serves as a Healthbox Accelerator Program Mentor, Marketing Committee Lead for the MIT Enterprise Forum of Cambridge Launch Smart Clinics, and on the organizing team for Boston TechJam. She holds an MBA from Northeastern University.

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