How is it that citizen development, or becoming citizen developer, is being a trend?

We understand how the pandemic accelerates the need for companies to transform the way they do their business: moving on from doing things manually and relying on human-staff, into relying on a technology that we can control. Eventually, this pushes companies to continuously demand innovative digital solutions to help them improve the way they engage customers, reduce operational costs, transforming operations for better productivity, and eliminate inefficient process as much as possible.

The companies need to translate these needs of business transformation into IT requirements, meaning they need technology as solution to help them transform. However, research has proven there is a massive global shortage of skilled software developers, that companies may need to deliver and operationalize the transformation they desire.

The Lack of Skilled IT Developers

A research was conducted to analyze the importance of citizen development for digital transformation. Overall, this research states that the demand for talented software developers has outpaced supply, as organizations across the industry have focused their efforts on digitally transforming their business.

The research observes that with growing demand for software development and IT worker shortages, Agile methods are no longer a sustainable approach. The gap between IT skill supply and applications or software that can help to sustain digital transformation, will allow the possibility of having software/application development outside IT’s control. As predicted in Forrester, by 2024 there will be a deficit of 500,000 software developers in the United States alone.

There has been a trend that enables non-IT developers to create applications, as an attempt to meet business opportunities and tackle business challenges, without having to depend on IT developers. This model is a lot more dynamic compared to the conventional companies are used to perform. Also, this model focuses on giving results as an output of communications between IT departments and business functions.

What is Citizen Developer?

According to the research, citizen development offers significant potential for digital transformation initiatives by empowering employees to bridge the gap in meeting growing demands for new applications to meet client needs.

However, what is citizen developer?

Citizen Developer is a term that refers to individuals with the ability to design, create, and build computer programs or applications without needing to know programming languages by leveraging on “no-code” or “low-code” tools with pre-build capabilities. This citizen developer can be an employee with no IT-background or coding knowledge that creates software applications for their team to use. Usually, this development is without the involvement of IT departments.

How is the Process of development?

Here is the typical process of citizen development:

  1. Understanding needs of having a technology solution to tackle addressed business challenges.
  2. Proposing ideas of technology solution to overcome those business challenges.
  3. Starts to build and develop the technology solution (software or applications) using low-code or no-code.
  4. Has in-depth relationship with IT departments to review the app for governance.
  5. Eventually, publishing the app for use.

What are the Characteristics of Citizen Developer?

Citizen developer could have different skill-sets and knowledge, but they have little or no experience in coding and programming. However, they have desire to solve problems and possess moderate tech skills.

Here are some basic characteristics of citizen developers:

  • Non-technical individuals, with no experience or training in software development
  • Most likely the employees in the business: analysts, project managers, operation managers, etc.
  • Rely on no-code or low-code tools to develop programs or applications
  • Enthusiastic to use technology to get their work done efficiently
  • Have a strong understanding of the business and processes involved
  • Have a desire to learn and create

4 Characteristics of Successful Citizen Developer

4 Characteristics of Successful Citizen Developer
4 Characteristics of Successful Citizen Developer

Who can be Citizen Developer?

Anyone can be a citizen developer. Ideally, becoming a citizen developer aligns with having these traits:

Understand what the business needs

The key component of becoming a citizen developer is having an ability to recognize and understand the needs of various business functions. It is ideal for the citizen developer to be able to identify how to fill the needs that meet the company goals. This includes the ability to address the roadblocks of how business runs, and inventing a solution to tackle it.

An architect to craft solution to the business challenges

Being a passionate problem-solver is a huge help if one is about to become citizen developer. The next step after being able to understand the challenge is the ability to come up with good solutions. Here, citizen developer plays as an “architect” of solutions – where they invent ‘solution’ to the ‘problem’.

Love to learn and improve by learning

It is important to highlight that becoming a citizen developer requires taking on new skills, continuous learning from many sources, coding styles, and more. It is highly preferable if someone enjoys self-taught learning and can improve by learning, if they strive to be citizen developer.

Open to constructive criticism and feedback

Citizen developer produces solution that their team should be able to utilize. Thus, becoming a developer means they must be open to constructive criticism and feedback that may come from their team. Positively open to criticism and feedback and use them to sharpen the result is essential for becoming a citizen developer.

Possess skills that are adjacent to the role

Becoming citizen developer might be considered as a journey to upskill one’s current role in a company. However, to be a successful citizen developer, it is preferable for someone to have skill-set and knowledge that is adjacent to or has familiarity with coding, such as logic and basic math.

Why Companies Should Invest?

What urges companies to invest in citizen developers?

What urges companies to invest in citizen developers?
The urges for companies to invest in citizen developers

We know that market demand is growing rapidly, and we need to adjust the speed of fulfilling those needs to stay competitive in the market. Engaging customer is one of many top priorities that companies are striving each day. This means, there is a need to accelerate the continuous development of our product so that it can reach customers efficiently. The question is, how do we engage customers better by focusing on the effectivity of our product, if we have recurring inefficient business processes? Given to the question, it increases expectations for business to create user-centric applications.

Whether or not your company is a big enterprise, your company can benefit from the existence of citizen developers:


The existence of citizen developer can help to decrease software maintenance costs. They can also help company to save more money from having to hire professional developers. Citizen developer can also boost the company’s productivity and improve their efficiency, thus can reduce or optimize operational cost. No-code citizen development also allow citizen developers to create applications in lesser time with less money. Companies can optimize existing resources and employee for this application creation, resulting in a significant reduce of expenses.

Increases efficiency: simplified business processes

Citizen developer acts as bridge that can build strong communication across all departments in a company, brings fluidity to the workplace, and helps to streamline business processes. This will empower company to increase their business efficiency.

A fast-track to digital transformation

Citizen developer offers significant potential for digital transformation initiatives. This is by empowering employees to bridge the gap in meeting growing demands for new apps.

Supply insufficient developers

The demand for talented software developers has outpaced supply, as organizations across the industry have focused their efforts on digitally transforming their business. Citizen developer is a new trend to fill the gap between the lack of skilled developers and the increasing need of a tech-solution.

Improves business and IT productivity

Citizen developer helps to “reduce” IT backlog. The increasing need for business apps would mean IT department to have a piling to-do-list on their backlog, even increasing each day! This inability to deliver solutions on time, the possibility of having work stalls due to huge backlogs, could lead to another several drawbacks that inhibit the business from continuously growing. The help of “unburdening” IT backlog can boost company’s productivity, optimize or even reduce operational cost, and save more time.

As indicated by Forrester, no-code solutions can accelerate app development by up to 10 times while consuming 70% fewer resources compared to conventional methods and workflows.

Reduces burden on IT department

Imagine what IT department is having on their plate: troubleshooting existing apps, trying to fulfil the needs by creating new apps, and more. Citizen developer helps to allow IT department to focus on more complex projects, thus unburdening the weights they carry on their shoulders. This is possible as the involvement of IT department during citizen development is only required during review for governance, or typically not required at all.

Engage customers better and faster

The existence of citizen developers helps to build app faster. Considering how rapid market conditions are changing, companies need to provide service and supply product faster. Citizen development can be helpful, where they can build apps at the desired speed and deliver high-quality services. Thus, engage customer better and increase their satisfaction towards the product or service your business is offering.

How to be a Citizen Developer?

Typically, there are 4 core steps of becoming citizen developer:

  1. Get to know your ecosystem
  2. Define challenges and bottle-neck problems
  3. Explore tools to solve the matters
  4. Take the initiatives to learn and try

Becoming Citizen Developer

4 keys of citizen developer’s skills:

  • Knowledge of the company’s operational needs and business process
  • Advanced level of digital skills
  • Ability to collaborate with other departments
  • Motivation to upskill

Borya Shakhnovich writes in Forbes, there are four ways to empower no-code citizen developers:

  • Leverage standard toolsets. Inform development staff about the standard low-code/no-code tools and enable access to them.
  • Explore hyper agility. Combine intelligent automation with agile practices, transitioning to a smart agile enterprise.
  • Maintain proper governance and control of shadow IT. Discourage using systems, devices, apps, and services disapproved by IT.
  • Empower no-code developers. Foster mentorship and ongoing support from IT.

Read how to build a successful automation strategy

Written by: Kezia Nadira