Did you know that citizen developers will outnumber professional developers four times at large organizations by 2023? The flood of citizen development is already on its way and is set to bring a tide of new technical practices and payoffs.

Citizen developers create software and applications with little coding experience, honing in on their vantage point as a user. The end result is tech built by and for everyday people, not by specialized developers who are often one or two steps removed from the user experience. And while traditional developers have natural concerns about what the rise of citizen development means for their careers, citizen development is a movement that can strengthen the tech world as a whole. The future of software development using citizen developers is ultimately about accelerating innovation by maximizing development resources, allowing professional developers to focus on what they do best, and empowering citizen developers to help with the rest.

The future of software development lies with citizen developers and is unfolding as we speak. Here’s why it matters and how your organization can be part of it. 

Why are Citizen Developers Important Now?

The world needs more developers. In fact, the US Labor Department estimates that by 2030, there’ll be a lack of 85.2 million software engineers. In the face of rapid digital transformation, remote working, and automation, people need (and expect) a range of software that enables them to live more easily and efficiently. With the current manpower, though, that simply won’t be possible.

As the demand for digital solutions soars, tech teams are struggling to keep up while backlogs are getting bigger. It then also becomes harder to justify smaller projects because programming is expensive, so businesses look for alternate ways of working (like shadow IT) but these are unsustainable and can open up problems down the line. Instead, organizations tend to take one of three steps:

  • They build applications from scratch, knowing they don’t have sufficient coders and that the process will be long, inflexible, and expensive.
  • They buy a point solution, which is also expensive and often forces companies to modify their processes in order to fit the tool.
  • They use spreadsheets, emails, and shared drives to build, which can be flexible and low-cost, but are inadequate and open up gaps in security. 

This is ineffective in looking to the future of software development. A far more effective route is to use low-code/no-code platforms and curate a team of citizen developers. Doing so is relatively inexpensive, flexible, robust, secure, and adds to the pool of developers. Plus, with support from tools like TrackVia, training citizen developers is straightforward. 

Initially, TrackVia builds capabilities, showing users what good code and practices look like. Then, through our knowledge materials, coaching, and co-building, we teach users how to adjust and deploy applications. In the end, new citizen developers can shape their own apps while still using our services and expertise. 

What Do Citizen Developers Bring to the Tech Table?

Citizen developers represent the fastest, easiest, and most scalable way to create, configure, and manage software. It’s why Gartner research shows that at least 70% of all new business software will be deployed by low-code technology used by citizen developers come 2024.

Part of the appeal of citizen developers is that they can move through large chunks of organizations’ backlogs, which is important when two-thirds of software projects are chronically behind schedule and over budget. At the same time, organizations that invest in people becoming citizen developers create new skills and career paths that keep individuals motivated and engaged. 

Likewise, citizen developers help businesses innovate at a greater velocity and efficiency because they don’t rely solely on in-house teams. Many companies are limited in their ability to innovate due to a lack of developers or budget constraints for software. Citizen developers grown from no code/low platforms like TrackVia allow companies to tap into their employees to participate in solving their own critical application needs—meaning organizations can double down on speed and deliverables. 

Citizen Developers and Your Tech Department

Citizen developers don’t (and shouldn’t) work in a silo with existing tech teams. Having such a separation introduces tension into workflows, and negatively affects product development and citizen development scaling. Instead, citizen developers work in partnership with both tech teams and the business as a whole. 

For example, say a company wants to digitize a core process, such as order management or inventory tracking. Citizen developers would be essential to design and configure the software to meet specific usability needs day-to-day, while professional developers would have to ensure that the software is secure, managed, and correctly integrated into other systems across the corporate ecosystem as needed.

Citizen development additionally encourages knowledge exchange with businesses. Professional developers can empower and encourage people throughout the company to participate in app development, walking them through low code/no code platforms, while the business offers training in tandem. These two perspectives lay a path for citizen developers to graduate to more complex applications and eventually own higher priority tasks within the company.

Similarly, the abundance of requests for new software that comes to companies’ IT departments can be handled by citizen developers. These developers can act as an extension of the team, helping fulfill requests for inter or interdepartmental software solutions. The role of citizen developers, therefore, contributes to more intelligent, streamlined workflows.

Where Do Tech Developers Fit in Your Business?

Citizen development has to be nurtured by businesses—it’s not a “set it, and forget it” kind of benefit. Without standards, training, and clear expectations for citizen developers, the concept ends up looking like shadow IT on steroids. That said, citizen development is not yet a formal part of the tech ecosystem. The Project Management Institute (PMI) framework for citizen development can guide companies on their journey toward the future of software development, but each organization will have to decide how best to organize around it.

Some companies may focus only on their business analysts in IT to be citizen developers, and others will opt for one person from each department. Elsewhere, a handful of companies will create a center of excellence for citizen development, hoping to eventually give every employee the chance to be a citizen developer. Whatever the route, all businesses should start small with a controlled citizen development experiment, and expand through continuous improvement.

No code/low code platforms are undoubtedly going to fuel businesses’ progress in the citizen development revolution. By replacing complex, line-by-line coding with drag-and-drop, fully visual software platforms, companies can easily support the transition to citizen development at scale, and without compromising quality.

Think of it like building a car. As a mechanic (aka a citizen developer), the car can be assembled quickly and use parts that have already been manufactured. And, because the mechanic drives a car themselves, they know exactly what to optimize. On the other hand, a car engineer (aka the professional developer), needs to design the car from scratch and make the separate parts to piece the car together—a longer, more intricate, and resource-consuming process.

There’s a reason why low code technology has been placed at the center of the Emerging Technologies and Trends Impact Radar for 2022-2023. Not only does it fill a gap in the tech talent shortage, but it also places more opportunities to code at more people’s fingertips—and that spells greater innovation, returns, and retention. 

So, are you ready to step into the future of software development, today? Request a free TrackVia demo.

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