It is no secret that technology drives modern business. For companies to keep up with the competition, they need to be able to quickly develop and deploy software solutions. This has led to the rise of two different types of developers: citizen developers and professional developers. But what exactly is a citizen developer, and how do they compare to professional developers in ability, cost, and creativity?

What is a citizen developer?

Citizen developers are employees of a company who are not professional developers, but who have the ability to develop line of business applications or solutions. Citizen developers typically use low code or no code platforms to build applications. These platforms allow citizen developers to quickly create solutions without the need for extensive coding knowledge.

The concept of citizen development has been around for several years, but it has gained popularity in recent years as companies have looked for ways to reduce the cost of software development.

Anyone can be a citizen developer, regardless of their technical expertise or coding knowledge. The only requirement is that they have an idea for an application or solution that they want to build.

As citizen development becomes more popular, certification programs such as PMI’s Citizen Developer Practitioner (PMI CD-P) have been created to help companies train their employees in citizen development best practices.

What is a professional developer?

From punch cards to mainframes to personal computers, software development has come a long way in a short amount of time. And as software development has become more complex, the professional development industry has evolved to meet the demand.

Professional developers are individuals who have been trained in software development and who have extensive experience in coding and formal development lifecycles. Professional developers typically work for software development companies, large enterprises, or as freelancers. These developers usually prefer to use coding languages such as Java, Python, or PHP to build applications.

The pros and cons of citizen developers

There are both advantages and disadvantages to using citizen developers to build applications. On the one hand, citizen developers can be a cost-effective solution for companies who do not have the budget to hire professional developers. Additionally, citizen developers can be a quick and easy way to create simple applications.

On the other hand, citizen developers may not have the same level of technical expertise as professional developers, and they may not be able to create complex applications. There is a fine line between shadow IT and citizen development, and companies need to be careful that they do not allow their employees to create applications that are not secure or that do not meet company standards.

As citizen developers are merely employees that are already being paid, their cost is often lower than that of professional developers. Citizen developers are also typically more readily available, as they are already employed by the company.

Organizations with a thriving company culture fostering creativity and innovation are more likely to be successful with citizen development. Top-down management, which many legacy organizations prefer, is the antithesis of this.

Pros & Cons of Citizen Developers

The pros and cons of professional developers

Professional developers can create complex applications that are highly customized to the needs of a company. Additionally, professional developers typically have a deeper understanding of coding languages and development tools.

Professional code is at far greater risk of tech debt, and professional developers are more likely to create code that is difficult to maintain. Simply put, a lot more can go wrong when you’re building something from nothing.

Professional developers can be expensive, especially since most projects require multiple developers. The average hourly rate of an American full-stack engineer can exceed $300 per hour.

Traditional software development has more technical considerations and is often more expensive than citizen development. Once you write this custom code, where are you going to run it?

Say you decide to utilize a cloud service like Microsoft Azure – who is going to manage and secure those resources? If you decide to install servers at your office, will your insurance cover damage if the physical servers are stolen or destroyed? If you are in a regulated industry, will your software have to undergo third party auditing or follow frameworks such as OWASP’s ASVS?

These are important questions with professional development that must be considered before the first line of code is written. Citizen developers using a low code platform such as TrackVia can instead focus their efforts on building productive applications, without worrying about the underlying infrastructure or security.

Companies may be tempted to hire cheap offshore resources to save money during traditional development lifecycles, but this is often a mistake. These developers may not have the same level of expertise as domestic developers, and they may not be familiar with the company’s business. Additionally, communication can be a challenge when working with offshore resources.

Pros & Cons of Professional Developers


There is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to choosing between citizen developers and professional developers. The decision of which type of developer to use depends on the specific needs of the company. If cost is a primary concern, then citizen developers may be the best option.

Do you want to test the waters before you jump into citizen development? Your organization can demo a citizen developer program for free with TrackVia’s 30-day low code trial.

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