Citizen Developers: What are they and what are the benefits?

Posted on August 10, 2022


People have long created functional applications to assist their everyday work — in fact, one of the platforms most commonly used for this purpose is Microsoft Excel, which has been around since 1987! However, recently, more and more businesses are realizing the potential of citizen development and harnessing its many perks. Indeed, according to the University of Alabama, 67% of companies see citizen development as a solution to the growing IT skills gap. But what is a citizen developer? And what are the benefits?

What is a citizen developer?

A citizen developer is a person who writes programs without having any formal software development training. These users usually employ low or no-code platforms to create their applications, creating exactly the functionality they require. In essence, citizen development enables enterprises to automate processes, generate workflows and computerize operations that would normally necessitate coding knowledge.

Why should I consider citizen development for my business?

Technology and business are now thoroughly interwoven. Moreover, a recent McKinsey survey found that in top-performing enterprises, 47% believe that “senior technology leaders very effectively foster a culture that supports new and digital ways of working, such as ‘fail fast,’ across the organization.” However, this is only true for 3% of respondents from lower-performing organizations. With that in mind, it’s important to empower employees to be able to use the most efficient digital solutions for their everyday work, as well as free up your IT departments to implement more complex changes and lead the way when it comes to technology. Citizen developers allow you to do just that, directly going against the problem of the IT backlog and enabling everyone else to magnify their processes.

What are the benefits of citizen development?

Citizen development can be massively beneficial to a business. Here are some of the most important advantages.

1. Speed

IT resources are already stretched thin, as we’ve already established. As a result, even if work is urgently needed to take advantage of a commercial opportunity, it will take longer to do it. Citizen development is a powerful tool to tackle challenges without having to use IT leaders. Low or no-code platforms enable citizen developers to solve issues as soon as they arise. Importantly, if the situation changes, the application can be adjusted immediately, saving time.

2. Cost

By investing in citizen development, you’re introducing your employees to a completely new world in which they can explore, innovate and create. Although it may sound expensive or burdensome for the organization, businesses only need to pay for platforms rather than expert developers, who are usually far more expensive. Instead, the money can be used for truly complicated tasks that require a virtuoso.

3. Collaboration

When compared to the other divisions of the organization, the IT department might appear to function in silos at times. Citizen development bridges the gap between the ‘core’ areas of the organization and IT, improving collaboration throughout the workplace. Professional IT staff have received years of formal training, which can provide a real insight into strategy and approach, while citizen developers can manifest solutions more easily as their pipeline is not as intensive and because they grasp the issues directly. Collaboratively, these two groups can create a business that is both efficient and professional.

4. IT Resources

Citizen developers don’t eliminate the need for an IT department — but the often simple, repetitive and unproductive tasks that these divisions are asked to perform countless times in a day. What’s more, software developers are a sought-after commodity nowadays, and as a result, many firms are having a hard time filling vacant positions. Citizen development reduces this burden and gives an opportunity to the existing tech staff to do what they do best.

5. Ease

Not only does citizen development empower employees, it can also be pretty simple to do. For example, many choose spreadsheets as the basis for their application design, which can be done through prolific programs like Microsoft Excel. With EASA, citizen developers can produce an Excel sheet with all the relevant functionality, including macros and VBA, and then transform it into a working web app that uses the spreadsheet as its engine. This solves many of the issues of handling Excel, from IP risks to lack of version control, while requiring no coding at all.

Contact us to learn more about how EASA can work for your company.