The Rise of the Citizen Developer and Its Impact on the Enterprise

By Mike Raia | Published April 3, 2018

In today's fast-paced marketplace, digital transformation is critical to any organization’s competitive positioning. As such, both front- and back-end processes need to be digitized to offer better services and improve efficiencies. It should be no surprise then that according to Global Market Insights, the enterprise application market will exceed $287 billion by 2024. 

What Are Citizen Developers?

Concurrent with the need for digital transformation and the proliferation of rapid application development and delivery (RAD) platforms, there has been an increase in the number of citizen developers: highly creative and driven problem solvers who engage in the development of business applications using IT-sanctioned tools and runtime environments. Most of these individuals have little to no prior knowledge of coding or app development, and they can come from any business unit, whether that’s HR, sales, marketing, or some other department. Using RAD platforms, citizen developers can create fairly advanced applications, although IT input is usually still necessary for the most sophisticated applications and integrations.

More Organizations Are Enabling Citizen Developers

In recent years, a growing number of organizations have started to enable citizen developers. A 2016 survey by TechValidate and OutSystems described in the report “Heroes or Villain? How IT Sees Citizen Developers” revealed that 17 percent of organizations already enabled citizen developers. A further 10 percent were considering enabling them. These days it has become even more commonplace.

In addition, according to the 2017 report by Kintone titled “The Rise of the Empowered Citizen Developer,” 76 percent of businesses stated that at least some of their apps were developed outside of their IT department — and 20 percent even stated that most of their applications were created outside of IT.

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The Overall Positive Impact of Citizen Developers on the Enterprise

Of course, allowing employees to develop apps for business use comes with concerns. Since few non-professional IT developers are fully aware of security and regulatory issues, IT needs to provide oversight to ensure the developed apps comply with policies and regulations. However, when IT offers the right guidance and support, enabling citizen developers in your organization can offer multiple benefits: 

  1. You can capture and utilize the knowledge of your organization's human capital to fill business needs. Since citizen developers are employees on the front lines of the various business units every day, they’re aware of what’s needed to make process improvements. Sometimes that involves creating an app to reduce inefficiencies and increase productivity in a specific process, while other times it involves creating a new app to replace an existing one. Either way, their intimate knowledge of the processes for which the applications are intended can significantly enhance the quality and usefulness of the resulting apps.
  2. Wait times for new apps are reduced. IT is responsible for your organization’s entire system, and there can be long wait times for apps to be developed. Citizen developers can unburden IT while simultaneously minimizing the time between identifying the need for a new app and its completion date. According to the Kintone report, a third of citizen developers typically need only a month to create a new app, and another 20 percent usually complete an app within three months. 
  3. Adjustments and upgrades can be made as needed. Citizen developers receive feedback directly from their colleagues who are also using their apps. They can handle the adjustments independently when they realize a fix is needed or there's room for improvement. There’s no need to wait for an upgrade or improvement from the app developer or the IT department. This, in turn, contributes to enhanced efficiency and productivity. 
  4. It adds to your organization's IP. Since apps are developed by citizen developers using company resources, the resulting apps are proprietary to your organization. This additional IP enhances your company’s overall value.
  5. It diminishes the chance of shadow IT. Shadow IT occurs when employees go outside of the IT-sanctioned applications and servers to do their work. For example, they might set up their servers, store data in their cloud or use software not approved for company use. Of course, this raises security concerns. Providing employees with the opportunity and tools to develop solutions can reduce frustration with inefficient processes and encourage them to create viable solutions within an IT-approved space.
  6. It drives innovation within the company. Enabling citizen developers to design solutions for business problems fosters creative thinking. This creativity can carry over into teamwork and as a result, drive the type of innovation that can help propel your business forward. 
  7. It enhances digital transformation. Having employees develop applications supports the digitization process. This not only reduces operational expenses; it can also help attract top talent, which in turn contributes to higher performance and heightened customer satisfaction. 
  8. It improves cost control. The acquisition of custom apps can be costly. At the same time, hiring IT talent in-house to develop apps can be a costly endeavor, since programmers are in high demand. Providing non-IT employees with the tools, support and if necessary, training to use RAD platforms and other low- or no-code tools can offer a cost-effective alternative.  

Ultimately, it should be clear that the sum total of these benefits far outweighs the concerns when your company provides the leadership, support and technical oversight for citizen developers to operate within IT-sanctioned space. 

Suppose you want to harness the potential benefits of enabling citizen developers in your organization to design and build applications to automate workflow. In that case, you need the right platform, with a combination of ease-of use and power. To learn about how Integrify provides this rare mix of robust features and a user-friendly interface for citizen developers of all kinds, schedule a demonstration.

development   user experience   citizen developer  

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Mike Raia

Marketing the world's best workflow automation software and drinking way too much coffee. Connect with me on LinkedIn at