Importance of Citizen Developers



July 19, 2020

By Chandra Philip-Lye


The need for software developers has been growing substantially over the past few years and isn’t going to slow down, according to recent statistics. However, with a labour shortage of good developers, that also means there will likely be a lack of software apps to meet the growing demand for business solutions. This is where Citizen Developers come in.


Over the past few years, many employees within a variety of organizations from different industries have started creating their own apps. Most of the time these people do not have any programming background. How they manage this is to use low-code or no-code platforms in their design process. This drag-and-drop approach enables them to customize digital business solutions for their organization.


What is a Citizen Developer?

A Citizen Developer is anyone within that uses low-code or no-code platforms to design customized apps for organizations. They are not professional software developers and many of them do not have any programming background.


Citizen developers often use a drag-and-drop style of platform to create their apps. These apps are designed to work either on the web or mobile devices, which makes them a valuable addition to the organization’s toolbox.


A good number of citizen developers are problem-solvers. They are innovators. And they are often in a managerial or supervisory role. Thanks to technology, these individuals are able to design and build customized apps for organizations that improve efficiency and productivity.



Why are Citizen Developers Important?

Citizen developers are often the go-getters in the workplace. In a 2017 survey, most respondents indicated they created customized apps for their organization in an effort to boost productivity and streamline processes. Organizations have been encouraging citizen developers to create customized apps because they are not able to find what they need in out-of-the-box solutions.


Individuals that consider themselves citizen developers can be found in many different industries and organizations. From small businesses to large corporations, they are designing customized apps in an effort to benefit their business.


Citizen developers are important because it is usually their drive and desire that causes the innovation that is needed in their organization and industry. They also demonstrate how to overcome the shortage of trained app developers and solutions in the industry.



Pros and Cons of Citizen Development

There are some pros and even some cons that come with the advent of Citizen Developers.


The benefits of this approach include:


Cost savings: Organizations that allow employees to create customized apps can save money on hiring professional developers. In addition, using these low-code and no-code platforms, companies can expand the number of employees who are skilled in development.


Customized: With this low-cost development solution, organizations can have an app that is built to their specifications. That means that each department of the company will be able to collaborate to drive the final product. Apps developed in this way will meet all of the organization’s requirements without bells and whistles they don’t need or want.


Speed: Developing apps in the traditional way can take time. But using low-code or no-code platforms, employees can create apps in a shorter time frame.  A FileMaker survey found that some Citizen Developers were able to bring their apps to life in about a month.


Yet, Citizen Developers do come with some drawbacks. These include:


Training: To democratize the technology, organizations may be required to hold training sessions in low-code or no-code platforms. This will put all employees on an equal footing. It can dispel any negative feelings or diversity issues that may be raised.


Capability: Unfortunately, not all employees are tech-savvy. That will greatly diminish their ability to develop apps or other software solutions even with low-code or no-code platforms. This could create a divide among employees within your organization.


Privacy: Keeping sensitive data out of the hands of hackers is a key component of digital applications. However, without a solid technical background and understanding Citizen Developers will need to do some extra work to ensure they are in compliance with government regulations in this area.

Citizen Developers and You

There is an ongoing need for new and better software apps. Yet, the industry is experiencing a shortage of professionally trained developers. Citizen Developers have been filling the gap. By using low-code and no-code platforms, these individuals can build customized business solutions for their organizations.


Organizations that encourage employees to become Citizen Developers can benefit from a collaborative effort to build a customized app that improves productivity and efficiency for their business. Citizen Developers are also able to build these apps quickly at a fraction of what it costs to hire a professionally-trained developer. While there are some drawbacks including the need to offer training sessions to your employees, having a Citizen Developer in your ranks is more of an advantage than a disability.



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