Learn about Citizen Development 

"By 2023, the number of active citizen developers at large enterprises will be at least four times the number of professional developers.”

- Gartner in VentureBeat

A lot has been written about the benefits of citizen development. But not much has been written about what kinds of skills are required for citizen development or how someone can become a citizen developer. This resources covers:

  • What is a citizen developer?
  • Do citizen developers matter?
  • Who can be a citizen developer and what makes a good citizen developer?
  • Who should manage citizen development and citizen development governance?
  • Examples of apps built by citizen developers
  • What is the best software tool for citizen developers?

What is Citizen Development/Programming?

Citizen developers typically use different kinds of tools than traditional IT, and they approach programming in a different way as well. Rather than use traditional programming techniques, they use citizen developer platforms, typically low-code/no-code tools. Because they don’t work for IT, and instead are business experts and domain experts, they approach problems from a business point of view. So they generally don’t write enterprise applications, and instead, write apps that solve highly targeted business problems.

citizen development programming

Why Do Citizen Developers Matter?

citizen developers matter to IT

Do these new app creators matter? Yes they do. IT is under intense pressure to deliver solutions for digital transformation and process automation. At the same time there is an enormous shortage of skilled developers to work with business users to build business applications.

It’s simple. Without formal training, these new users can do their own problem solving and build applications that take pressure off IT. These workers can solve the problem of companies not being able to hire enough professional developers, make sure that the right apps get developed quickly, and reduce cost and improve productivity.

More companies now realize the value of having experienced business experts build the apps they and their colleagues use for business tasks. In fact, Gartner predicts that citizen developers will soon outnumber traditional developers in organizations by 4-to-1.

Who can be a Citizen Developer?

Let’s start with the basics: Who can be a citizen developer? To understand that, let’s first take a look at how Gartner defines “citizen developer”: “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.

“All citizen developers are business technologists. However, all business technologists are not necessarily citizen developers. There is no required designation of proficiency or time allocation for citizen developers but they must be legal employees of an organization.”

who can be a citizen developer

Taking that a bit further, a citizen developer is someone with intimate knowledge of a company’s business practices and workflows, and knows enough about technology to write apps or applications to improve them. They should also have people skills and be able and willing to cooperate with multiple departments.

All this means that citizen developer skills include a mix of business expertise, technical knowledge, and the ability to work closely with others.

What Makes a Good Citizen Developer?

mobile app design wireframes

So, what makes a good citizen developer? The article, “What Is a Citizen Developer? points to these traits:

  • A citizen developer recognizes business needs. He or she needs to be able to see the big picture of what’s important to a company, as well as the details of what isn’t working right or needs to be improved.
  • A citizen developer enjoys learning. The article explains: “Becoming a citizen developer requires taking on new skills, learning new platforms, coding styles, and more. The only people qualified for this type of position are those who are willing to learn and who are capable of being self-taught.”
  • A citizen developer works with little oversight. Citizen developers need to be highly motivated self-starters who excel at project planning. The article adds, “They need to be able to work independently and produce high-quality, creative business solutions.”
  • A citizen developer can take constructive criticism. Citizen developers need to be able to accept the kind of criticism that leads to building better applications. As the article notes: “A client or manager may have feedback for you to help you sharpen your performance, allowing you to become more effective. Taking feedback and applying it to your work is an essential skill.”
  • A citizen developer sells his or her cause. The article explains: “You may need to sell the idea of a citizen development position to your organization or potential clients. The ability to exude your passion for development with a level of sales acumen that makes clear the benefits to the person or organization you are selling it to is essential.”

Who Should Manage Citizen Development?

By definition, these business leaders who build apps don’t work in IT. Instead, they work in departments or other kinds of business units close to the everyday business processes they're trying to digitize. So they need to be directly managed by people in their departments, not by IT.

That being said, however, they must work very closely with IT as well. IT sets enterprise standards for security, integration, quality and more.

For more details about this, download the Complete Guide to Citizen Development Governance.

citizen developers can build apps that end-users love with the right no-code and low-code software tools

Ctizen developers can build apps that end-users love with the right no-code and low-code software tools.

Businesses need to pay careful attention to this complex relationship between citizen developers, IT, and business units. So corporate standards need to be established. According to the Alpha Software blog post by Amy Groden, “Citizen Developer Governance: How To Manage It”:

“Citizen Developer Governance turns rogue shadow IT projects into secure apps that follow corporate guidelines and policies. IT can ensure data is secure, apps are properly tested, and apps go through an approval process. A clear policy establishes quality control over citizen development. It ensures that app development across the organization is consistent and high quality.

“IT makes sure security requirements are followed, corporate branding guidelines are employed, and apps deliver high quality user experiences on a range of iOS and Android devices. Without governance over citizen development, IT cannot ensure that app performance and security adhere to company standards.”

Can Citizen Developers Build Enterprise Apps with Low-Code Software

Low-code and no-code software for citizen development

Many people are still nervous about having people who aren't developers build company apps, but that bias is changing. 

Recently, Alpha Software's Vice President of Marketing explained in VentureBeat::

"Because low-code development delivers business apps without needing large amounts of programming, the longstanding belief is that low-code doesn’t have the capacity to meet enterprise standards. This is no longer true...Thanks to low-code platforms, complete enterprise applications can be developed within days, contributing to why company executive are increasingly making low-code development their most significant automation investment."

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Build Apps with outstanding UI/UX without having to code.

Examples of Apps Developed by Citizen Developers

OSHA inspection app built by citizen developer
app built with no-code software
app with analytics built by citizen developer
digital signature app
Service Dispatch app built by citizen developer
Inspection app built by citizen developer
mobile app designed by citizen developer
manufacturing 5S audit app built by citizen developer

Get the Right Tool to Empower Citizen Developers

Citizen developers can only do their jobs if they have the right platform. We have what we think is the best one. Get started on building mobile apps for free with the leading software for citizen developers.