Citizen Development Name Game

What’s the difference between citizen developers, business engineers, business analysts, and process managers?

The rise of no-code/low-code app building platforms has created a new type of job role that’s not easy to define. What do you call a person with successful business acumen and a knack for technology? It may seem like an unusual combination, but companies all over the world are discovering that these process-oriented and tech savvy employees are the key to dramatically improving processes.

In looking across the no/low-code space, one might see numerous job titles associated with these hybrid business experts with technical know-how. We’re going to break down some of the job titles we’ve seen and explain their subtle differences.

What is a citizen developer?

A citizen developer is a catch-all term widely used to describe a person who creates applications but may not have formal software development education or training. Gartner, a research and advisory company that specializes in reports for CTOs and CIOs, goes further by defining citizen developers as someone who builds applications using “development and runtime environments sanctioned by corporate IT.” However, this isn’t always the case. Having worked with thousands of companies, real world citizen developers often work deep within divisions and departments unbeknownst to corporate IT, creating sophisticated apps using low- and no-code app building platforms that are not always on IT’s radar. This is commonly called shadow IT.

Shadow IT has grown exponentially in recent years with the adoption of cloud-based applications and services. This often isn’t intended to be harmful. Rather, it’s simply an effort by employees to address their challenges at work and make work more efficient. The problem is that if IT is not aware of an application or technology that an employee brings into the organization, they can’t ensure its security or provide support.

The good news is this practice of hiding from or bypassing IT (i.e., shadow IT) is changing as more companies and corporate IT departments proactively embrace and encourage citizen developers instead of discouraging them. IT departments are now becoming more aware of business workflows and the need for easier processes to get jobs done. They are now creating their own citizen developer teams, empowering them to develop apps that digitize their workflows and scale with their business.

Although you might not see job postings for citizen developers, there are some common characteristics they often share.

What are some common characteristics of citizen developers?

  • Recognize workflow or process inefficiencies that can be solved with digitization and automation
  • Have a solid grasp of the business and its processes
  • Have a strong desire to make a difference for their company
  • Have technical skills, like knowing how to write or record macros in Excel
  • Have a problem-solving mindset and use creative ideas to improve efficiencies

What is a business engineer?

A business engineer is an analytical person who possesses a passion for improving business processes. Business engineers understand the bigger picture and goals of a business, but also know the functions of work processes at a micro level. They serve as liaisons between the business and technical teams to gather data and streamline complex processes. They are often responsible for the digitization of a company and focus on identifying opportunities for improvement with the ability to present critical data that is useful to the business process. Sounds just like a citizen developer, right?

Given the broad, all-encompassing nature of the term citizen developer, many organizations are beginning to post jobs for business engineers. In talking with customers, many prefer this job title because it blends the business and technology elements together. Maybe companies prefer this job title because it sounds more official and professional.

Either way, business engineers and citizen developers combine business process and technology expertise into one position. They possess the ability to understand complex organizations and workflow scenarios and can devise solutions themselves or in close conjunction with business and technical teams.

What is a business analyst?

The title business analyst has been around for years— but it’s evolving. By definition, a business analyst is a professional who assesses the needs of an organization and suggests ways to increase productivity, efficiency, and profitability. Traditionally, business analysts ended their work with analysis and documentation, but as the role evolves, many are actually creating software solutions themselves to digitize and streamline processes or systems.

Typical functions of a business analyst might now include adding new features to existing software, gathering mobile app requirements, communicating application problems or obstacles to a developer, or improving or updating current software and systems. There are variations in this role that might sit within the IT department, but others may have a separate department or live within a product team. Many are skilled in Agile methodologies.

In simple terms, today’s business analysts not only are able to diagnose business problems and opportunities, but they’re taking a hands-on approach by building successful applications using no/low-code platforms.

What is a process manager?

A process manager evaluates and makes improvements to business processes. The explanation may sound simple, but the job is more complex. Process managers often work within systems and processes that come about haphazardly, and they must organize the system in order for work to be more efficient and cost effective. They may be involved in managing materials, people, data, forms, checklists, tools, equipment, and software. A process manager is creative and logical and able to diagnose problems and find innovative solutions. They want to find the best way to get the work of an organization accomplished. They will most likely be responsible for implementing their recommended solutions and managing the adoption of the new process.

Much like a citizen developer they want to first document a process and understand the operation from start to finish, then they will often implement software solutions to make the process easier and more efficient. Process managers have also been called business engineers – so it is understandable that there is confusion.

Process managers are not necessarily code savvy and the solutions they recommend could include implementing a low-code or no-code platform, resulting in them becoming a citizen developer. They may also help to train others which makes them ideal leading the charge for citizen developer programs within organizations.

Other titles you might see

There are a wide variety of titles that might include citizen development and use of low/no-code platforms. Here’s a general list of others you might see.

  • Product Marketing Manager
  • Senior Cloud Architect
  • Workflow Automation Director
  • Digital Process Automation Architect
  • Systems Engineer
  • Application Developer
  • Strategic Development Manager
  • Governance and Analytics Director
  • Director of Operational Risk
  • Application Support Manager
  • Quality Control Manager
  • Operations Manager
  • Business Transformation Manager

How do you become a citizen developer?

If you’re asking this question, chances are, you are already a citizen developer at heart. You know how to balance your left-brain (analytical) and right-brain (creative) hemispheres to make an impact in your day-to-day work. You have a thorough understanding of your department’s needs and know how you’d address those concerns if only you had the right tools. Your work background might be as a business analyst, operations expert, or process improvement specialist, but we’ve also seen highly-successful citizen developers with backgrounds as front-line workers.

If you find yourself augmenting systems with spreadsheets or building work-arounds because of technology gaps, consider looking into no/low-code platforms. Although these platforms allow citizen developers to create apps without the assistance of the IT team, the best results are often achieved when the two collaborate.

How are other businesses using citizen development?

There are as many varied uses of citizen development as there are titles for citizen developers. We have seen citizen developers in quality control, operations, governance, risk, business transformation, analytics, IT, and more.

Oftentimes, businesses use citizen development to get better data to make business decisions or to relieve a backlog of requests. Many low/no-code platforms are used for workflow management, logistics, and project management to provide assignment notifications, better track the status of a process, and make it easier to manage data across platforms.

The best thing about a no/low-code platform is that it allows businesspeople and IT to quickly assemble new applications without having to write or test code. It can be used for most any back office operation that needs digitized, simplified, and accelerated. Basically, you can automate more in less time with low-code to make your organization more productive and processes easier to manage.

How do I implement a citizen developer program at my company?

For CIOs contemplating the benefits of a citizen development program, the biggest challenge isn’t whether or not to begin one, it’s getting started. Moving development work out of IT can seem dangerous and daunting. With the right platform and program in place, it doesn’t have to be. Businesses can maximize the efficiencies using a citizen developer program without risks to the business. Include IT in the process of developing the citizen developer program and ensure data security measures are in place, connections and integrations are secure and business people are trained on what they are allowed to access.

Departments within organizations can ready themselves for low code and citizen development in a way that maximizes effectiveness.

 

 

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