Citizen Developer - how non-developers become developers

Maybe it has happened to you and you have created a custom view in WordPress, for example. Whether by accident or while experimenting with the tool: You have become a Citizen Developer!

But what is a Citizen Developer? These are end users who become developers without a degree in IT science and use tools to create applications. In a business environment, however, these applications should first be managed by the IT department. With Citizen Development, there are several advantages, because now users themselves can contribute to implementing application functions that bring great added value and optimize business processes sustainably.

How did the Citizen Developer come into existence?

In recent years, so-called “low code” tools and platforms have sprung up like mushrooms. Today, it is possible for even non-experts to easily create applications with the visual tools by dragging and dropping modules. Long before the recent “Low Code” movement, the tools for creating your own games or homepage were already doing it on the good old home computer. Microsoft Frontpage, which no longer exists today, but which allowed the visual creation of websites, made everyone a Citizen Developer and that without being a HTML crack. Visual Basic extended this functionality to the app area and made it possible to create Windows apps by combining components and interfaces.

However, low code has become more than just a nice “developer gimmick”, because today many IT departments lack staff with development skills and capacities. The fact that non-developers can become Citizen Developers with the help of low code not only relieves the burden on IT, but also saves time and thus costs. This means that efforts to ensure the availability of IT professionals are no longer necessary, because now, thanks to Citizen Development, non-developers can also take over development.

Citizen Developer Definition

A Citizen Developer can be translated as a “civil developer” which means a person in a company who can create applications without technical studies. For this purpose, the Citizen Developer has access to a corresponding visually programmable development environment (IDE). With the help of drag and drop application components, Citizen Developer can design new web or mobile applications, which are especially customized for the company. The system automatically takes care of the actual programming. As a rule, low-code/no-code software is used for Citizen Development. This enables Citizen Developer to design powerful applications that are tailored to the requirements and challenges of the company.

Benefits of Citizen Developer

At present, many companies are still reluctant to establish a Citizen Development in the corporate structure and to provide Citizen Developer with appropriate powers and technology.

This is mainly due to the concern of losing control over the technological possibilities and the risk that Citizen Developer will add new features to existing applications that may not be wanted. That this concern is usually unfounded is demonstrated by the fact that Citizen Developer typically receives support from the IT team, which of course continues to look after the company’s IT infrastructure. Citizen Developer only gets the opportunity to create their own applications with the low-code/no-code software. Everything else is still managed by the IT department.

Appointing Citizen Developer has several advantages. First of all, there is the reduction of costs. With Citizen Development, companies save on staffing costs for highly skilled developers who have the knowledge to create comprehensive enterprise programs. At the same time, low-code/no-code platforms offer the possibility not only to activate one Citizen Developer, but to integrate a larger number of such employees, who can thus massively advance the digital transformation.

It was also found that low-code/no-code platforms can improve internal collaboration. By working internally on a platform with integrated agile development tools, business and IT teams can easily collaborate and build new applications together. This also ensures that the functions of the apps can be developed by business experts themselves from the very beginning. With this Citizen Development approach, the end result is much better suited to the specific requirements of the company.

Finally, the speed using low-code/no-code platforms is a clear advantage. Citizen developers can realize apps much faster because they can use the visual processes and make use of the pre-built modules. Initial estimates suggest that Citizen Development is up to ten times faster than traditional methods. The time required to develop and test apps is reduced enormously. At the same time, companies remain much more flexible when it comes to IT, which in return significantly increases productivity levels.

In order for you to enjoy the benefits of Citizen Development, employees must be trained in the use of the low-code/no-code platforms and this on a regular basis. This is the only way to ensure that Citizen Developer can always make the most of all new features.

So it is clear that the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages and that Citizen Development can be the key for companies in many areas. This requires action and ensuring that Citizen Developers are equipped with the necessary skills to master the low-code/no-code platforms. This is the only way to turn employees into Citizen Developers.

Welcome to the world of Citizen Developer

In the following we want to take a closer look at the rise of low-code/no-code tools and see which possibilities are put into the hands of non-developers or Citizen Developers.

How does the work of a Citizen Developer look like?

With an appropriate low-code/no-code tool, employees from all areas of a company are able to develop applications themselves after an adequate training, which can be implemented in a department or in the whole company. With the basic training of the Appollo Low Code Platform, it takes less than two hours to implement the first business process as a Citizen Developer and use it live in the cloud.

The Citizen Developer executes the creation on a visual interface, which makes the application fast to implement. Once the basic framework is in place, data and objects are assigned and rules are defined. That’s it and the application is ready! Of course, the work of Citizen Developer is shown here in a very simplified form and it takes a bit more than that, but it speeds up the creation of applications considerably and offers non-experts the option to re-qualify themselves in the digital age.

With Citizen Development into a Development Democracy

The Citizen Development departs extremely from the traditional image of the personnel, who can only develop applications with arcane languages with a computer science degree. The method also democratizes development and makes it accessible to a new generation of Citizen Developers. It does not matter that they may not understand what “object-oriented” means or “microservices”, but they do understand one thing very well: which processes in the company work and which can be optimized with automation. The question is, what ultimately pays off more for companies?

Many companies have already answered this question for themselves, which increases the demand for low-code/no-code tools that enable Citizen Developer to create the ideal environment to create, maintain and deploy production applications that ultimately support business processes optimally.

More productivity, flexibility and improved results

Why do companies decide to use Citizen Development? Because it significantly improves productivity. Of course, this is strongly related to the major changes that have taken place in recent years. Today, more than ever, companies need to remain agile and dynamic and drive digitization forward in order to survive on the market. When it comes to finding suitable development methods, Citizen Development is often the first choice.

From the increasingly agile teams, “full-stack developers” emerge, who are able to handle all aspects of the development process. This includes both software development and the provision of infrastructure. Today’s low-code/no-code platforms have efficient functions that full-stack developers can use and thus benefit from.

This is where Appollo comes into play as a low-code platform for the Citizen Developer role. By applying the low-code approach to hosting, providing and running scalable services, Appollo enables teams to easily share and deploy their creations.

In just a few clicks, projects are set up and a working environment is created in which services can be published immediately. Thus, Appollo Low-Code is a cloud hosting and deployment tool that can offer enormous security thanks to its custom network options and applications that are only accessible within a company.

With its know-how, the Citizen Developer is a precious resource for the company. Easy-to-use tools and shared knowledge of code communities make it easier than ever to create and share business applications in combination and go far beyond useful drag-and-drop tools.

When companies place the development of an application in the hands of Citizen Developer, not only are processes accelerated, but the end result is significantly better.

However, this requires that Citizen Developers are allowed to work independently and are kept up to date with the latest knowledge through regular training – two essential components of Citizen Development. IT must also build the framework for the applications so that data integrity, analysis, security and regulatory compliance are assured. Once this is in place, Citizen Developer can focus on their area of expertise, providing sustained speed and flexibility to the business.

Welcome to the world of Citizen Developer. A new era is currently dawning that will have a major impact on productivity.

The characteristics of a Citizen Developer

Today anyone can be a developer, that is the approach of Citizen Development and that can help companies save money.

Now more than ever, low-code/no-code technologies make it easier than ever for Citizen Developer to add value to developers with the right skills and experience.

The ideal Citizen Developer should have the following characteristics:

Identify business requirements

One of the most important key competencies of a Citizen Developer is to recognize, determine and align the needs and requirements of different companies with the company’s goals.

Become a problem solver

Citizen Developers operate as problem solvers and find a number of good approaches for each challenge to overcome.

Continuous learning

As a Citizen Developer, you need to enjoy learning new skills, familiarizing yourself with the latest platforms and coding styles, and continuing your education. Citizen Developers become autodidacts.

Independent work

The work of a Citizen Developer can be done in a company or on a self-employed basis. It is important to develop a high level of motivation for the independent work in order to create high quality, creative business solutions. This is the only way to carry the position of a developer without a degree.

Accept criticism

Feedback from customers or from the executive floor, which offers constructive criticism, is pure gold for Citizen Developer. Only then are they able to improve performance and become more effective. Therefore, as a Citizen Developer, it is important to be able to accept criticism.

Slipping into roles

In order to qualify for a current job, Citizen Developer may find it helpful to have a basic understanding of mathematics and logic, for example, coding, and to take advanced training courses to become a data analyst or IT administrator.

Selling the idea

Ultimately, a Citizen Developer must always be a good salesperson in order to sell the idea of Citizen Development to a company or potential customer and demonstrate the benefits.

How does one become a Citizen Developer?

There are two ways to become a Citizen Developer. The first way is to expand your current position or apply for a new one. If you are already working in the software development industry, it is of course much easier to join a new company as a Citizen Developer. To position yourself within a company as a Citizen Developer, it is important that you first identify the need and sell yourself well as a Citizen Developer. This is primarily a matter of making it clear in a plain and logical way what the skills and experience will add value to the business.

How to start with Citizen Development?

There are always projects that are ideal for Citizen Developer. Therefore the combination of a suitable project, the skills of the Citizen Developer and the appropriate software is the ideal situation. The following approaches are suitable for starting a project:

  • Keep it simple

It is important to avoid complexity and to keep processes and tasks simple and to eliminate unknown factors as far as possible in advance.

  • Working on a workflow

Making a workflow out of several processes – this is the secret weapon of Citizen Development and the ideal start for the Citizen Developer.

And now? Our tip: Start your Citizen Developer strategy, start as a Citizen Developer or deploy Citizen Developer in your company as soon as possible, because right now is the best time.

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