Remove IT Bottlenecks — Embrace the Citizen Development Era

The need for software development has never been higher. By 2025, the Internet of Things (IoT) is projected to include more than 75 billion devices worldwide — more than three times as many devices as in 2019.

Despite approximately 27 million developers worldwide, the IT backlog is immense. The average backlog for planned IT projects in 2019 was 3-12 months, and that backlog has only gotten worse. There simply are not enough professional developers (Pro Dev) to meet the software demand. Additionally, serious challenges still exist in recruiting developers, and less than half of developers' time (43.4%) is spent coding.  

Thankfully, necessity is the mother of invention, and the recent rise of the Citizen Developer has helped fill many of those gaps.

What Is Citizen Development

A Citizen Developer is not a traditionally trained software developer, an IT specialist, or even someone with a formal tech background. A Citizen Developer is an individual who creates enterprise-level solutions using low-code or no-code platforms.  

These employees come from all corners of an organization with expertise in their field, allowing them to know what data to collect and how to use it, resulting in the ability to quickly build business-critical apps and take pressure off the IT team.

How Are Citizen Developers Doing This Stuff?

Low-code or no-code platforms, such as those provided by industry leaders like Microsoft (think Power BI, Power Automate, or SharePoint), are the tools used by Citizen Developers to develop and deploy applications with little (low-code) or no (no-code) coding experience.  

Typically, these platforms offer intuitive, drag-and-drop interfaces, pre-built templates, and modular development options, allowing Citizen Developers to translate their business needs into functional and efficient applications.   

Citizen Development is already happening across every industry sector. By 2024, 80% of technology products and services will be built by non-technology professionals – aka Citizen Developers. In 2023, 82% of firms emphasize the importance of custom app development outside of IT, with 60% of custom apps coming from outside that department (30% of which were created by employees with minimal technical development skills).    

Imagine a bartending robot built on low-code, no-code technology, an app that monitors and reports on specific stock prices, or one of the largest companies in the world empowering their team members to support the IT department in building out solutions extending the capabilities of their tech stack (John Deere).

Just Some of the Benefits of Citizen Development

The Citizen Development model can be a boon for organizations for several reasons:

  • Speed and Innovation: Traditional application development can be time-consuming. With Citizen Developers, businesses can quickly transform ideas into tangible solutions, spurring innovation.
  • Empowering Employees: As employees across departments engage in application development, it promotes a culture of empowerment and active participation, making digitization a company-wide initiative.
  • Optimizing Resources: Leveraging existing talent reduces the need for external hires or specialized training. Citizen Development is a cost-effective way to address business challenges.
  • Customization: Since Citizen Developers often create solutions for challenges they face, the resulting applications are highly tailored to address specific business needs.

Challenges for Citizen Development Going Forward

While there are numerous advantages and opportunities for the democratization of software development, there certainly are some challenges organizations will have to face.

  • Quality: With increased decentralization of the development process, ensuring that applications meet the required quality standards becomes a concern.   
  • Security: Maintaining stringent security standards is paramount, with a broader base of individuals dabbling in application development.   
  • Governance: To avoid a scenario akin to the digital "Wild West," organizations need comprehensive documentation, clarity about what is in the development environment, and tools to monitor and manage the proliferation of applications. 

Software development has evolved from the first wave of corporate development to the second wave of self-service development (where we currently stand) and is headed towards a third wave of end-user development. The future of application development will see Citizen Developers creating and managing applications based on their individual organization’s needs. We will see IT departments not as blockers of these innovations, but as overseers of the process. 

By embracing the Citizen Development movement, organizations can drastically reduce the backlog of IT projects, quickly and efficiently solve problems that arise, and stay ahead of the competition.

AI Has Entered the Chat ... Literally

ChatGPT, Bard, and Midjourney, among other AI tools, have burst onto the scene in the last 12 months — ChatGPT's adoption rate shattered records for consumer applications, reaching one million users in just five days and 100 million users in two months.

The AI revolution is here, and it is not going away anytime soon. AI-powered tools like Microsoft Copilot (launching Nov. 1 to Microsoft Enterprise customers) are poised to fundamentally change how everyone works, and software development is a significant beneficiary.

With a simple prompt, a Citizen Developer can ask Copilot to create an application using any single or multiple Microsoft products, simplifying how the end-user interacts and interprets data.

Your Next Moves in Embracing the Citizen Development Model

As business landscapes become more complex, the need for rapid, tailored solutions will continue to grow. Organizations that successfully integrate and manage Citizen Developers will be better positioned to thrive in this new era.  

 Ready to delve deeper into the realm of Citizen Development? Are you looking to harness the potential of AI-powered software development but seek guidance to navigate its ins and outs? Heartland Business Systems stands ready to assist.   

Together, we can pioneer the future, one solution at a time. Reach out to HBS today.

author avatar
Nate Freidhoff