What is a Citizen Developer?
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What is a Citizen Developer?

What is a Citizen Developer?
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May 15, 2021

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Translated into German, the term citizen developer means something like “civilian developer” or “department developer.” Citizen Developers are tech-savvy employees who create IT applications for their own area of expertise.

The company provides the Citizen Developer with a standardized development environment in the form of Low-code or no-code platforms available. In contrast to professional software developers, citizen developers have no special programming or IT skills and are usually dependent on supporting software tools. With the help of the platforms, citizen developers can, for example, create simple web applications using the proven modular principle. As end users and experienced experts in their field, Citizen Developers know all the requirements within the department and are particularly suitable for the software development of context-relevant programs.

<h2 id="Citizen Developer" data-headline="Ursache: Fachkräftemangel"><span class="first_id_number">1.</span> Citizen Developers are being used due to the lack of IT specialists</h2>

Citizen developers play a central role in the digital transformation of companies. By using special department developers, the path is shortened - from the actual idea to the finished software. Since Citizen Developers are always knowledgeable and knowledgeable, they are familiar with the problems, tasks, goals and processes of their own department. As a result, Citizen Developers can develop their own applications as needed and without a long training period. There are significantly more potential citizen developers in companies worldwide than professional software developers. In addition, the lack of IT capacity is definitely an important bottleneck in the digitization of business processes.

IT departments in companies usually have limited resources. This creates a comparatively long backlog (list) with the desired solutions that have not yet been put into practice. Thanks to today's software solutions in the form of cloud, low-code, no-code and SaaS tools, just about any employee can co-develop and work as a citizen developer. The department developers can act independently of the respective capacities of their IT department and accelerate the digital transformation in companies enormously.

<h2 id="Der Bedarf an Citizen Developer steigt" data-headline="Der Bedarf an Citizen Developer steigt"><span class="first_id_number">2.</span> The need for Citizen Developers is increasing</h2>

According to experienced analysts from Forrester Research, citizen developers will play an increasingly important role in the future and will be used more and more frequently in application development. According to a study by the market research company, around 24 percent of all application developers were based in companies outside their respective IT department as early as 2019.

According to experienced analysts, this significant trend should continue due to the ever more frequent use of popular low-code tools. The well-known market researchers from Gartner Inc. predict that the number of Citizen Developers will increase significantly in the future. According to Gartner, four times as many citizen developers will work in companies by 2023 than professional developers.

In order to successfully establish citizen development, the participating companies must definitely develop a suitable strategy and opt for the optimal technology. Analysts and market researchers see a strong trend in the use of popular low-code platforms. Forrester experts expect the market for low-code platforms to expand by at least 40 percent over the next 2 years. By 2024, around 65 percent of all application developments are to be carried out using low-code tools.

<h2 id="Das Citizen Development aus Unternehmenssicht" data-headline="Das Citizen Development aus Unternehmenssicht"><span class="first_id_number">3.</span> Citizen development from a corporate perspective</h2>

IT and technologies have become an integral part of our everyday lives. Most customers are used to using programs from their private areas that work simply and quickly and are also mobile. In addition, comprehension and learning curve are constantly increasing. Although customers and specialist departments are not becoming IT experts, the demands placed on day-to-day business are constantly increasing.

If it is now possible for private consumers to submit an application online without any problems, then this expectation is of course also reflected in business life. A particularly negative example: The negative experience of employees has an impact on the company's customers. Many companies still work internally with cumbersome Word documents and countless Excel spreadsheets. Should a customer service representative rummage through this messy information network at the customer's request, he will usually encounter several problems with the quality of the data. In the worst case, this results in dissatisfied customer service representatives and dissatisfied customers. End users need three important things so that they can complete their tasks with the highest level of satisfaction:

  • the right IT support
  • the right processes
  • the right technology

<h2 id="Wettbewerbsvorteil Citizen Development" data-headline="Wettbewerbsvorteil: Citizen Development"><span class="first_id_number">4.</span> Citizen Developers provide companies with several advantages</h2>

Every citizen developer has a big advantage called an outside perspective. Many professional developers lack this or is only available to a small extent. Simply put, a citizen developer knows what is important to users in the programs. Users usually have either no or at least no profound IT knowledge. In the business sector, a citizen developer is particularly valuable for companies. IT systems are indispensable in these areas and users often lack the appropriate background.

Each Citizen Developer used increases the productivity of the company because he does additional development work. Many citizen developers start their careers on their own. They usually run into a big problem and solve it outside of their working hours and with the help of their own development. In this way, future citizen developers draw attention to their talent. At the same time, they present their company with a practical solution to the problem. If employees are then allowed to continue working in their company as Citizen Developers, they are extremely motivated and feel a particular form of appreciation.

<h2 id="Feedback Citizen Development" data-headline="Feedback: IT Abteilung"><span class="first_id_number">5.</span> What is the IT Citizen Developer's assessment?</h2>

The main task of the IT department is to ensure that day-to-day business operations run as smoothly as possible. In addition, the IT department must complete many other tasks. IT managers must update the company's internal IT infrastructure and also develop programs that meet the high expectations of customers and management. This huge pressure is intensified because most IT departments have too thin a staff base. At the end of 2019, on average, every third company in Germany was looking for new developers. Should the IT department in the company not only limit itself to important maintenance and also become creative again, it is definitely in the interest of all parties involved if the IT departments integrate Citizen Developers into their processes. Citizen development takes place within and outside IT departments.

Citizen developers are employees or applications from the specialist department who develop programs for their own area. In principle, can

  • with the support of the in-house IT department and the existing development environments (low-code and no-code platforms)
  • independent of the in-house IT department

<div class="rtf-blog-element"><div class="icon_area"><p class="rtf-blog-heading cc-tip">Good to know:</p></div> <img src="https://assets-global.website-files.com/620a7cdcd7f0ed9792867991/627c29a301fa389fd8f12485_info-icon.svg" loading="lazy" alt=""><p>Basically, citizen development can be implemented in 2 different ways:
With the help of support the in-house IT department or independently the in-house IT department</p></div>.

Nowadays, a citizen developer no longer has to be a professional IT developer. This could be, for example, a former software developer who is now active in the respective specialist department. Or it is a company employee who creates smaller programs at home in his spare time. In addition, it is possible for several department developers to work together in one team. A citizen developer:

  • knows all the requirements for the software solution to be developed, as he and his respective department are both a user and a beneficiary
  • doesn't have time to wait for new features to be released, existing functions to be adapted, or for bugs to be fixed

<h2 id="Schatten IT" data-headline="Citizen Development vs. Schatten-IT"><span class="first_id_number">6.</span> Citizen development versus shadow IT</h2>

Employees in companies who are tech-savvy and develop independent solutions for their own specialist area are by no means new. In most cases, such applications were implemented without the support and knowledge of the responsible IT department. If individual employees or entire specialist departments procure, program or operate software autonomously, this is known as shadow IT (shadow development). Without the knowledge and control of the in-house IT department, such an unofficial secondary system exists alongside the existing IT infrastructure. In most cases, the secondary system does not meet the organizational requirements in terms of documentation, control, reliability and security.

Citizen development differs from shadow IT in several areas. The IT departments of the departments provide every citizen developer with a standardized environment for the development of applications, meaning that the applications can be programmed on a uniform, technological basis. Citizen Development is not an unofficial secondary system like shadow IT, but an official part of the companies' existing IT infrastructure right from the start. Companies benefit from the innovations and initiative of their individual departments. In addition, the implementation of Citizen Developer solutions can be monitored centrally and continuously by the in-house IT department. The programs documented in writing work reliably and meet all safety-related requirements.

The development of software applications in business sectors is constantly increasing. The providers of no-code and low-code platforms have identified this development as a huge future market. To gain a foothold in this area, try to combine the advantages of existing shadow IT with central software development.

<h2 id="challenges" data-headline="Citizen Development Herausforderungen"><span class="first_id_number">7.</span> Citizen Developer - Disadvantages and Challenges</h2>

Citizen development not only has advantages. Companies are faced with a number of disadvantages and challenges. The following questions and problems must be answered and resolved:

  • How high is the quality of the implemented software solution in terms of documentation, code coverage and code smells?
  • How well and extensively is the developed software tested, how secure are the applications and who has the rights and options?
  • How well is the process for collecting the necessary requirements?
  • How are stakeholders involved in detail and how are the possible scenarios considered in practice?
  • Who is responsible for maintaining and maintaining the developed software?
  • Who carries out any necessary refactoring in the company?
  • Who is the contact person if problems arise?

The use of a Citizen Developer can reduce existing development costs, as the activities do not require any additional programming experts and resources. However, if a full cost calculation is carried out, including a consideration of opportunity costs, the benefits of citizen development are no longer generally valid.

<h2 id="risks" data-headline="Risiken des Citizen Developments"><span class="first_id_number">8.</span> Are there any problems or risks when using a Citizen Developer?</h2>

The integration of software developments from a citizen developer requires the use of a professional programmer in most cases. In some companies, integration is extremely difficult because some Citizen Developers do not comply with current standards. In addition, the work of Citizen Developers can result in unwanted shadow IT, which exists in addition to regular IT systems and is usually not adequately documented. Should important work processes be moved to the newly created shadow IT, this can become a problem for the company. For these reasons, there are some critical voices that question the extent to which companies should rely on the development work of a citizen developer.

<h2 id="Digitalisierung" data-headline="Digitalisierung mithilfe von Citizen Developers"><span class="first_id_number">9.</span> Citizen developers help with digital transformation</h2>

Citizen development is becoming more and more a central part of application creation in companies. Many companies are suffering from a shortage of skilled workers and are unable to push ahead with their IT projects. To ensure that application development does not come to a complete standstill and continues at an above-average speed, this should be driven forward with all available forces. Citizen developers can close the gap created by the shortage of skilled workers accordingly and help the affected companies to successfully advance their digital transformation. In order for citizen developers to be able to effectively help companies, they absolutely need the support of their in-house IT department and must also have access to all necessary tools.

The low-code and no-code platforms play a key role in this context, as they create a connection between specialist departments and IT. With the help of these special platforms, development work in companies can be significantly accelerated and this has a positive effect on entrepreneurial success. Citizen developers ensure significantly shorter waiting times, because the specialist departments do not have to wait for their in-house overloaded IT to take care of the respective problems.

Citizen developers use the low-code and no-code platforms to create their own solutions. These speed up internal processes in companies and help to achieve greater employee satisfaction. Thanks to the platforms, citizen developers are no longer forced to create their solutions in so-called shadow IT. With the help of low-code platforms, the developed solutions can be easily monitored and placed in the official corporate context. Through their technical affinity, existing expertise and creativity, Citizen Developers contribute significantly and sustainably to the company's success.

<div class="rtf-blog-element cc-filled"><p class="rtf-blog-heading cc-white">Would you like to train your teams to become Citizen Developers or learn more about the topic? Then get in touch with us now!</p> <a href="/de/kontakt" class="c-button cc-border w-inline-block"><div class="c-button-text cc-mr15">Get in touch</div> <div class="c-big-arrow-link_icon w-embed"><svg xmlns="http://www.w3.org/2000/svg" width="20" height="14" viewBox="0 0 20 14">
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