Who Are Citizen Developers? 5 Benefits & Steps To Become One

In this guide, you are going to learn about the main role of Citizen Developers as well as how you can easily and quickly become one. Whilst, keeping in mind, that the rising demand for applications software and the shortage of skilled developers has forced organizations to embrace the other route of citizen development in their strategic planning.

Markedly, this is after the inevitable changes in the corporate environment — while forcing organizations to revisit their business strategies every now and then. With companies undergoing constant digital transformation, IT teams face severe pressure, resulting in IT backlogs. For this and other reasons, this’s where citizen development comes to the rescue.

The growing need for citizen application development is in every organization. But, IT departments can’t build new apps on time because they have a huge backlog of work — even a simple app takes months or years to build. Perse, businesses around the world have started using no-code and low-code platforms that allow citizen developers to build software in days/weeks.

Citizen Development is most prevalent in HR, operations and admin, RD, finance, and customer service. This framework expands your company’s pool of developers and brings expertise and unique insight into the software development process. That said, we are going to learn more about the citizen developers meaning, definition, and how-tos below.

What A Citizen Development Project Entails: A Tutorial Guide For Beginners

In general, Citizen Development is defined as a process where non-IT-trained employees become software developers by leveraging low-code/no-code (LCNC) platforms to build business-critical applications. Suffice it to say, almost all software and applications created using citizen development methods needs to be sanctioned and approved by IT professionals.

Of course, this differentiates the meaning of citizen development from Shadow IT to be precise. Realistically, citizen-led development has already been adopted by companies across the world. Specifically, this is because it provides non-IT experts with the appropriate technology and IT support to build the basic apps they need.

Resource Reference: Web Development Types | The Topmost #3 Design Project Forms

When employees build their own apps, they perform their job more efficiently, reduce the company’s operating costs, and lessen the IT backlog. Clearly, we can say that citizen development is a form of custom and tailor-made program that allows non-technical employees to design and develop custom software applications.

More so, whether it’s for themselves or their teams with minimal or no coding skills. It speeds up app development, cuts down costs, and improves productivity and the effectiveness of work by making application development faster and less costly. With that in mind, this brings us to the next item on the list — getting to know the main role of citizen developers…

The Main Job Roles That Citizen Developers Handle 

By definition, Citizen Developers are an employee category with no/low coding knowledge. They create software apps (for their team or others) using no-code and low-code development platforms with no involvement of IT. Thus a citizen developer is a persona and not a role. They build apps in runtime environments with development methods approved and sanctioned by IT.

One thing is for sure, as digital agility continues to advance, more employees are becoming citizen developers and creating applications on their own. Simply put, citizen developers are non-IT experts who seek solutions for their unique problems and use low-code/no-code to create the solutions themselves. Every citizen programmer has a different set of skills.

Resource Reference: Busting The Top 5 Myths In Citizen Development

As well as an array of long-term knowledge in their respective fields but little to no experience in coding. The fact is that they are problem solvers driven by change and have some moderate tech skills. Whereby, these individuals will use no-code and low-code platforms to bring their ideas to life — using an array of readily-available resources like drag-and-drop interfaces.

On that note, it’s so important to realize, that the role of citizen developers is quite different from professional developers who use pro code to build solutions. Not forgetting, most pro code platforms heavily rely only on code, while no-code systems have a Graphical User Interface that allows users to build solutions without coding. So, why should you consider them?

Why Companies Should Outsource Citizen Developers

Traditionally, if you wanted some functionality, you’d need to get in touch with IT to see if your organization has a tool in their stack that does what you need. Fortunately, citizen development uses no-code and low-code tools to ship usable software faster than it’d take a SaaS buying team to decide on a purchase, or for a team of developers to ship a full-feature app.

On one hand, regardless of its size, your company can benefit from citizen development in one way or the other. While, on the other hand, you can equally optimize your workforce and resources to solve specific business problems. Remarkably, Gartner makes some bold assertions about the future of citizen development plus how the industry is set to grow.

Truthfully, the success of your citizen development model relies heavily on the citizen developer tools you use for its strategic implementation plans. Forthwith, the tools must empower your citizen developers without burdening your IT teams. Equally, they must provide makers with greater autonomy while ensuring compliance with set standards.

Learn More: The Main Difference Between Citizen Developer Vs Professional Developer

On a similar note, they must also be easy to integrate and use. So that citizen developers can build and deploy solutions faster. To accelerate application delivery, you must find the right citizen development platform — with the right, custom, and tailor-based application tools — that meet the specific needs of your business.

In a nutshell, the all-encompassing benefit of implementing a citizen development model is accelerating and overcoming the challenges of digital transformation within organizations. Some of the more specific benefits include better business agility, an augmented development team, and faster deployment of enterprise-based applications, and platforms.

Always remember, that every company has its unique business structure and needs. This means, that the implementation of citizen development models varies from one project to the other. Luckily, there are a number of recommendations on how to successfully implement the framework and optimize its benefits.

Learn More: How Does Citizen Development Accelerate Business Sustainability?

While the citizen developer model works on the premise that no IT knowledge is required, users must still be trained on how to optimize the use of development tools. As you start your implementation, conduct comprehensive training on building applications, management practices, information security, agile environments, and other aspects of development.

In our case, we make some notes of how non-technical users are driving a no-code revolution. Still, the unanswered question is why it’s happening, why now, why so fast, and why at this scale? Citizen development is an entire paradigm that’s on track to change how startups and enterprises work with software. Organizations need to empower average employees.

More so, towards shipping and customizing the tools they need on a daily basis. And by so doing, citizen development will indirectly free up developers to focus on critical business projects. As well as in order to eliminate endless backlogs, and shorten the runway from conception to usable software.

1. It’s very easy to implement & deploy

The business landscape is evolving at lightning speed. There are constantly new consumer and employee demands. Without an equally fast delivery of new solutions, businesses will be unable to keep up with these needs. As citizen developers help create appropriate solutions, businesses become more agile and adapt to changes more quickly.

Generally speaking, low-code citizen development does more than let the rest of an organization skip the queue; it frees up software developers to focus on higher-priority work. Equally important, non-technical software and application developers can ship websites and apps faster. No-code platforms offer pre-built functionality that employees can hack into quickly.

Plus an array of usable software to work around without any programming experience. This is done through a drag-and-drop interface, and pre-built workflows, integrations, and components that require very minimal tweaking. But, citizen development initiatives can only be successful if there’s a collaboration between IT and business.

The fact is that they must be able to communicate openly and align their goals. IT teams must put standards in place for citizen developers to create citizen development applications that comply with governance policies.

2. It helps reduce workplace IT backlogs

The increasing need for business apps means IT teams have an ever-increasing to-do list. When IT teams are unable to deliver solutions on time, work stalls, and creates huge backlogs. Citizen development enables business users to create their own apps and can greatly reduce the burden on IT.

In the same fashion, full-featured low and no-code applications are rising. Whereby, they can be built in days or weeks for a fraction of that cost without sacrificing quality, feature parity, or scale. Similarly, according to a recent Reveal survey, recruiting skilled developers is one of the top challenges most businesses face.

This talent shortage slows down digital transformation in many enterprises, but citizen development helps address this. In particular, by offsetting the IT workload for citizen developers. In the end, this then enables software developers to focus on creating more technically complex applications that allow businesses to deliver solutions faster.

What’s more, unbridled access to everything can pose threats to your entire structure, as citizen developers may unwittingly explore areas they’re not familiar with and inadvertently make changes that lead to software malfunctions.

3. A cost-effective and cost-saving process

Realistically, a traditional application can cost anywhere from $40,000 to $250,000 — depending on the scope of the project, the features you’re building, and the number of users you want to support. This might not seem like much for enterprise teams, but it can be a dealbreaker for business startups who’re operating on a budget to do citizen automation work.

For one thing, it helps save companies money they would have spent hiring professional developers or purchasing third-party applications. By streamlining systems and integrating data, the costs are driven down. Citizen developers are more familiar with the processes they use. This puts them in a better position to assess what solutions they need.

In this case, by giving them the right citizen development tools, they can create agile-driven software platforms with great functionality features. And then again, coupled with applications — that can, essentially, be easily integrated into existing processes and quickly deployed across all channels they use.

4. Handy for building applications faster

It’s important to realize, that most market conditions are constantly changing and thus, organizations are forced to release products and services faster. This can easily be achieved with a citizen development framework in place. Where non-IT employees use a low-code/no-code platform to build apps at the desired speed and deliver high-quality services.

Whilst, keeping in mind, that a majority of traditional software teams often hold a series of standups, reviews, and meetings. Particularly, before deciding on which feature to build, adjust, or remove from an application. But, enabling citizen development gives a large number of people access to data as they create apps.

So, in order to avert this risk, you must ensure that you have appropriate security measures in place and that enterprise data is well-protected. You can avert security risks by granting role-based access to data and development tools. But, developing applications can be quite tricky, especially, for those who have limited knowledge of programming.

Without the right tools, citizen developers will end up having to ask IT teams for help and guidance. This defeats the goal of offloading IT teams with simple tasks. So, the right tools must be in place to enable effective citizen development.

5. There is optimal performance efficiency 

When employees are empowered to become citizen developers, their job satisfaction increases along with their productivity. With less dependence on IT, business users can handle their own requirements. This speeds up the process, and reduces bottlenecks, thereby increasing your organization’s overall productivity.

In other words, a great citizen development strategy also helps decreases software maintenance costs and maximizes existing resources. Must be remembered, that if there are no appropriate boundaries in place, citizen developers might create applications that don’t work well with your existing infrastructure. There’s also the risk of creating irrelevant applications.

Or rather, making unnecessary iterations in current applications. Above all, without any tangible governance control in place, the program will likely fail and result in losses in productivity and revenue.

The Key Steps To Become A Citizen Developer 

According to Gartner on citizen development, a citizen developer is an employee who creates application capabilities for consumption by themselves or others. While, in most cases, using tools that are not actively forbidden by IT or business units. With the citizen developer framework, employees become citizen developers who are able to do great things with little skills.

Like creating model-based solutions with the capabilities necessary for their business processes. They are able to do so even without formal software development training or a background in information technology. With this, software developers can focus on more complex development projects critical to the complete digital transformation of an organization.

The Basic Route For Citizen Developers To Follow

Uniquely, most citizen developers have more agility and can change applications and launch new features in less time than it takes a team of developers to build, test, and ship new improvements. That said, below are the steps to becoming one.

Step #1: Identify and join other citizen developers

In the first place, as a rule of thumb, the very first step to becoming a citizen developer in your organization is showing interest. You’re better placed if your organization already has automated processes. An organization that has already embraced automation may have a citizen development program for its employees. Reach out to the person managing the program.

And then, make sure that you learn how you can participate. At its core, citizen development heavily relies on having the right people on board. Citizen developers work alongside practice managers, coaches, and professional developers — each one playing an essential role in the success of the citizen development program.

Step #2: Familiarize yourself with a great software

Take time to familiarize yourself with the no-code platform your company uses–if it does. Acquire knowledge by taking part in any training or by reading up. Many software vendors offer citizen developer training, so make the most of it. On the other side, you can also consider allowing yourself some time to watch YouTube videos and tutorials, to get started.

Oftentimes, most citizen developers will use the right process to ensure the standardized delivery of automation solutions. It ensures that citizen developers and their outputs adhere to testing, maintenance, and reporting practices. Overall, these guidelines must be defined clearly, and the scope of automation must be delineated.

Step #3: Experiment with the topmost platform

Before going for any platform to consider out there, for smooth collaboration, there must be clearly defined roles and responsibilities for all persons involved. It’s important to foster a community of practice that promotes continuous learning, enablement, and sustainable growth. More so, without any formal software development training or a background in IT fields.

With this, software developers can focus on more complex development projects critical to the complete digital transformation of an organization. Experiment with ideas and automate your first workflow using the citizen development platform. Identify the specific process you want to automate then follow these steps.

  • Outline the workflow key requirements
  • Break the requirements into logical steps with a flowchart
  • Using the platform, automate the steps
  • Co-relate the steps with the initial requirements

To create apps for intelligent workflows, businesses must utilize technology that works with internal processes and governance structures. It must be easy for enterprise IT to manage and easy for citizen developers to use and reuse.

Step #4: Align solutions with business objectives

Once you’ve automated your first process and it’s approved by IT, the next step is to build again. Consider what you can do to automate processes in your organization and identify pain points where automation can make a difference. Focus on simplifying processes, collaborating, and delivering solutions faster.

Deploying the right technology is crucial to the success of citizen development. It must complement and augment the people and process pillars of a development program. It must create a development environment that fosters collaboration, enforces compliance, and delivers business value.

Step #5: Improve your app development skills

It’s only natural to want to improve your proficiency once you’ve reached a certain level. To sharpen your skills, keep building apps. Try out different ideas and build applications for different users, departments, the company, or customers. The research giant (Gartner) estimates that there will be a great turn in the IT sector by the end of 2023 and beyond.

Whereby, citizen developers at large enterprises will outnumber professional software developers by a factor of 4:1. After all, the world has never had more software engineers, developer productivity is through the roof, and salaries are at an all-time high. So, it’s time to shake the dust, embrace great/must-have changes, and utilize the best options.

The Best Practices For Citizen Developers While Using Kissflow 

To begin with, as a citizen developer, there are some steps you can take to embrace the switch to citizen development and the speed of low- and no-code offers for companies of all sizes. For instance, you can create a citizen development model and be proactive in promoting no-code technologies across various businesses and organizations.

The other important thing is for you to encourage other IT developers to partner with you, and also, provide guidance to aspiring citizen developers. You should also start exploring no-code platforms that can support your citizen development strategy. To minimize risks and ensure successful deployment, you must choose the right platform first.

An application that can help citizen development thrive in your company. Markedly, the success of any given citizen developer model requires a strong foundation where key elements are solidly in place. For this framework to work, there are three pillars that are critical to the whole implementation process.

  • people
  • process
  • technology

One of the best tools to kickstart your citizen development journey is Kissflow. Kissflow is a citizen development platform that offers a flexible no-code platform that you can consider. With Kissflow, you can empower your employees to design and build software applications that can be easily integrated into your business processes.

For your information, the citizen development platform by Kissflo is a comprehensive work platform that simplifies the process of building, testing and iterating your workflow ideas. Secondly, the platform helps unlock your potential as a citizen developer. In particular, by allowing you to easily learn how to build a range of products without writing code.

To enumerate, citizen automation is an enterprise practice where non-technical business users, with no coding experience, are empowered to develop digital solutions that automate work routines. By far, Kissflow Citizen Automation allows a unique way for citizen developers to do the unthinkable and the unimaginable at the same time.

Precisely, it provides them with the right software application and tools to set a new course for digital transformation. Especially, for their outsourcing software development businesses as well as their other key partners. Be that as it may, in order to succeed as a citizen IT developer, you’ll need to challenge yourself through a few things.

Consider the following:
  1. Save time with schedules
  2. Document everything
  3. Collect the right data
  4. Explore low-code language libraries
  5. Keep learning
  6. Always test any changes you make to applications

As you can see, Kissflow is a no-code work platform that allows you to do more work within a single platform. It bridges the gap between business users and IT teams while truly embracing the philosophy of simplicity.

So, go ahead and prototype, launch, iterate, and scale apps with Kissflow at any time you are ready — see the citizen development app in full action, and in real-time! And then, thereafter, share your customer-based experience back with us and other readers in our comments. You can also Contact Us at any time if you’ll need more support or help from our team.

Takeaway Notes:

In reality, it’s worth mentioning that the rising demand for software and the shortage of skilled developers has forced organizations to embrace citizen development. For this and other reasons, citizen development programs allow non-technical employees to develop custom software apps for themselves or their teams with minimal or no coding skills.

Notably, citizen developers build internal applications using low-code and no-code tools. Including but not limited to creating integrations, workflows, and processes inside existing tools. In addition to shipping new software from scratch. Somehow, there’s a consistent, growing demand for everyday employees to build their own software on demand.

Resource Reference: How Future-Ready Businesses (FRBs) Are Building For Tomorrow

Just as we aforementioned, citizen development is most prevalent in HR, operations and admin, RD, finance, and customer service. Usually, this framework expands your company’s pool of developers and brings expertise and unique insight into the software development process. Where citizen developers can build apps to solve business problems with IT backing.

Uniquely, they use no-code and low-code app development tools to build new business applications for consumption by themselves and other employees. They have a profound knowledge of an organization’s or a department’s processes and also possess advanced digital skills. This allows them to create efficient business apps and automate workflows easily.

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  1. Yes, this is certainly true, Citizen developers offer many benefits such as cost savings, improved collaboration between IT and business users, faster development cycles, greater flexibility in application design and an improved user interface.

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