Dispelling myths surrounding citizen developers

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The term “citizen developer” has become increasingly common as companies accelerate their digital transformation efforts. These individuals have different roles in organizations but share a common ambition: to design and build work-based apps that streamline or improve performance in their area of ​​business.

Through their in-house knowledge, these employees are able to generate new web or mobile applications that solve specific business problems and speed up daily work. Citizen developers typically use no-code or low-code software to create these apps.

According to Gartner’s predictions, civilian developers will soon outperform commercial developers by a ratio of 4: 1. Although these business analysts or business domain experts have no formal training in how to use development tools or write code, they are succeeding in creating valuable business applications. Gartner recommends that organizations adopt civic developers to achieve strategic goals and stay competitive in the increasingly mobile business world.

Despite the proliferation of civic developers in organizations, many companies still deny the value and importance of civic development. Let’s get rid of some of the most common beliefs.

1. Low-code applications cannot compete with enterprise-grade applications

A common belief surrounding civic development is that low-code applications may not meet the needs of enterprise-grade applications. Enterprise-grade applications are designed to support continued integration with other applications and existing IT frameworks, with the term “enterprise-grade” becoming more and more popular as IT has become more and more consumer. Because low-code development delivers large amounts of business applications without the need for programming, the long-held belief is that low-code does not have the capacity to meet enterprise standards. This is no longer true.

Typically, civic developers create low-code or no-code (LC / NC) applications for a specific business purpose, such as eliminating gaps between systems or automating routine processes to improve team productivity. Mostly, limited space, work-based applications are created by civilian developers, while large space applications with complex security and data requirements are still created by professional developers using mainstream programming languages. Typically, LC / NC software comes with pre-designed templates or a drag-and-drop interface that takes into account best development practices, general enterprise requirements, and regular IT practices. The software guides citizen developers to quickly create the necessary applications while adhering to the best application design and development methods. This allows more employees to create the best mobile and cloud application that speeds up business operations while minimizing risk for the organization.

Because enterprise-grade applications are increasingly being designed to be scalable and robust in the environment in which they are used, the technical and pre-designed nature of low-code development matches the standards required by enterprise-grade applications. Thanks to low-code platforms, full enterprise-grade applications can be developed in a matter of days, which contributes to why company executives are investing their most important automation in low-code development.

2. Alleged security risks with civic development

Security is an important component of any application. Security breaches are on the rise and with serious consequences such as ransomware, addressing security issues should be crucial for any organization considering civic development. Data security is generally the responsibility of IT departments, which identify and transfer any security risks as they develop applications. However, just because an application is developed by a civilian developer using LC / NC software tools does not mean that there is a need to increase security risks. According to the latest forecasts, LC / NC applications will account for 65% of development activity in the next two years. To meet these enterprise expectations, most low-code platforms now come to implement standard security practices with built-in security features or code scans. Vendors of LC / NC software tools now include a wide range of built-in security features, such as file monitoring, user control and code validation.

While security features in LC / NC software are becoming more widespread, IT departments should ensure that any development software used by the company is tested and adheres to the company’s security policies. In addition, having an IT approval process for apps before they are officially used can be a prudent policy for IT teams to establish.

3. Civil development creates shadow IT

Another widespread belief about civic development is the formation of shadow IT groups, outside of designated groups. This means that application development can be of disordered, uncontrolled and questionable quality. The reality can be very different. Many organizations struggle with low IT funding and resources. In these cases, civic development can be defended to provide faster business solutions to meet rapidly changing business needs. The key to overcoming the risk of shadow IT in these situations is to establish strong governance and collaboration over the process.

Instead of slowing down the efforts of civic developers, IT teams should encourage these new app creators by providing guidance and resources to create apps that best suit IT practices. One way is to allow a valid LC / NC development tool. Some LC / NC platforms used by civic developers are designed to eliminate technical complexity based on users’ business needs and provide complete transparency, control and governance.

The LC / NC platform can also enable an environment of collaboration between citizen developers and the IT department, allowing IT to retain control over the development process.

Another way to promote civic development is to present certificates and badges to civic developers to celebrate app design or app development achievements.

True benefits of civic developers

Citizen developers can accelerate transformational efforts using LC / NC software to create their own applications. Since civic developers are usually employees in key areas of the organization, they are most aware of the unique business needs, and thus, can develop mobile applications that cater specifically to the business. LC / NC software solutions give virtually any of these employees the ability to create mobile applications and, thus, help transform the company. The cost benefits are huge.

Companies can introduce innovative apps, save working hours and attract more revenue. Companies can save significant money without hiring specialized developers or outsourced app development projects. Additionally, civic developers can use LC / NC software based on a pre-built module that speeds up software development many times faster than starting with Square One. This reduces the time required to develop, design, test, and deploy apps.

Civic development is not just a wave of IT teams, nor does it mean that employees will be left to fend for themselves. IT departments can play a major role in providing adequate resources and supporting the company’s digital transformation efforts. The benefits of civic development far outweigh the risks.

However, business organizations should promote collaborative efforts to meet business needs and maintain competitive advantage between their civic developer employees and IT departments.

Instead of IT being the gateway to technological innovation and digital transformation, IT teams should try to empower civic developers and work with them to solve business / technical problems.

Amy Groden-Morrison is the VP of marketing and sales operations for Alpha Software


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