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What is a Citizen Developer?

What is a citizen developer?Citizen developers are business analysts or other business users who use low-code, no-code, or drag and drop software to build business apps. 

There’s been much written about “citizen developers.” business users who are not professional developers and have no formal training in how to create applications using development tools. Yet they write powerful applications that can help digitally transform businesses of all sizes.

What are citizen developers?

Who are these citizen developers and where do they work in the organization? They’re not software developers. They’re often line of business experts, business analysts or other users who create apps. But it’s not especially clear where do they work in a business and what they do.

Definition of a citizen developer

Gartner on citizen development

Gartner provides the most succinct business developer definition. “A citizen developer is an employee who creates application capabilities for consumption by themselves or others, using tools that are not actively forbidden by IT or business units. A citizen developer is a persona, not a title or targeted role. They report to a business unit or function other than IT.”

Forbes on citizen developmentWhere do these new developers work?

That means a citizen developer can work anywhere in an enterprise, in any department, performing any function. A Forbes magazine article, “The Pros And Cons Of Citizen Development,” defines a citizen developer not by job title, but what he or she actually does on the job. The article explains that citizen developers develop business applications using easy-to-use development platforms, code platforms, or code tools. The article puts it this way:

citizen developers and application development“The citizen developer is able to use drag-and-drop application components, connect them together in order to generate a new unique web or mobile application. This low-code/no-code software empowers employees to design and build powerful applications which can grow and adapt according to the needs of a business.”

This Approach to App Development is Increasing

Data shows that these new types of developers are becoming more prevalent in organizations. new Gartner survey found that “Half of business technologists produce capabilities for users beyond their own department and/or enterprise” Gartner’s finding shows the business technologies are now using low-code/no-code software or drag and drop tools to create business apps. These developers are taking on IT’s traditional role using innovative software.

Profile of a Citizen Developer

The University of Alabama at Birmingham Information Systems Program conducted extensive research on citizen developers. They found that 80% of leading companies (pacesetters) use non-IT developers. They profiled citizen developers as being:

  • between the ages of 18 - 29.
  • face to face communicators (vs. email or phone).
  • focused on projects that serve 5-25 users 
  • produce applications for consumption by other business users.
  • tasked with fulfilling a niche need for the business.

Citizen Developers and Digital Transformation

Citizen developers typically help digitally transform companies by writing applications that streamline business processes. They’re closer to those processes and understand them better than IT. They don’t need to write complex code and so use low-code/no-code tools to build applications. In that way, they amplify the power of IT and help free IT for higher-level development needs.

citizen developers use low code softwareThe Forbes article explains: “low-code/no-code platforms have been found to help foster greater collaboration between internal departments. It’s not only a way for IT to self-service its apps. It’s also a way to bring the business side into the development so that the final outcome is exactly appropriate to the specific requirements of an organization.

What Software do Citizen Developers Use?

Using low-code/no-code software, citizen developers can build apps much faster because it is a visual process using pre-built modules.

In fact, Forrester claims that they have the potential to make software development as much as 10-times faster than traditional methods. As a result, the time spent on app testing and development is significantly reduced. It also allows the organization to be more flexible in its approach to IT. Consequently, productivity levels will take a sharp upturn.”

Read more about the benefits of low-code software.

The Best Software for Citizen Developers

There are a variety of low-code/no-code tools that citizen developers typically turn to. These include including Microsoft Power Apps and AppyPie. 

Alpha TransForm no code software for citizen developersA particularly powerful solution is Alpha TranForm no-code software. This app builder with free app templates helps citizen developers craft mobile apps in minutes that utilize the latest mobile features (camera, GPS, etc.) for fast, accurate data collection. Learn more about Alpha TransForm and try it free for 30 days.

Alpha Anywhere low code software for citizen developersAlpha Anywhere is a powerful low-code solution for developers looking to increase their productivity. Developers can build apps for free using with the software.

Read how citizen developers are beginning to leverage AI and Machine Learning into their application development.

Learn how to become a citizen developer.

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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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The Alpha platform is the only unified mobile and web app development and deployment environment with distinct “no-code” and “low-code” components. Using the Alpha TransForm no-code product, business users and developers can take full advantage of all the capabilities of the smartphone to turn any form into a mobile app in minutes, and power users can add advanced app functionality with Alpha TransForm's built-in programming language. IT developers can use the Alpha Anywhere low-code environment to develop complex web or mobile business apps from scratch, integrate data with existing systems of record and workflows (including data collected via Alpha TransForm), and add additional security or authentication requirements to protect corporate data.