Citizen Development

Empower business experts to build high-impact solutions.

The Need for Citizen Development

Citizen developers are business users with little to no coding experience that build applications with IT-approved technology.

The concept of end-users creating their own solutions might not be new, but organizations understanding the potential impact of empowering citizen developers with more powerful tools is. Organizations are noticing the value of citizen development. According to a recent Gartner report, 61% of organizations either have or plan to have active citizen development initiatives.

Here's why there's a growing need for citizen development:

The IT Need

Enterprise digitization efforts are more mature – 40% of CIOs have reached scale for their digital endeavors, more than double the proportion of digitally-transformed enterprises from 2018.

The result of a more mature digital business model is a never-ending IT backlog. Research has found that 77% of IT leaders and 71% of business leaders agree that IT teams have a huge pipeline of new IT solution requests, which aren’t being built. In addition to keeping an organization up and running from a technology standpoint, IT is under immense pressure to modernize the existing IT infrastructure and advance their organization’s digital agenda by building new business-critical apps.

The business need

On the other side of the house, business users are fixing their problems by leveraging dated methods such as spreadsheets, desktop databases, etc. Over time, rampant unchecked development by business users, magnified by the boom of SaaS applications, has resulted in a complex network of solutions that IT has no visibility into.

Citizen Development Changes the Game

When you look at the business impact of IT’s inability to deliver new solutions on time, it puts the rise of citizen development into perspective.

How is the business impacted when IT is not able to deliver new IT solutions in a timely way?

  • Frustration among forward-thinking employees

  • Inability to meet key strategic targets

  • Miss cost reduction opportunities

  • Loss of competitive advantage

The Benefits of Citizen Development

Through citizen development, IT can partner with the business to build solutions the organization needs — faster and with less rework. The business users know their domain better than anyone else and working collaboratively will ensure that the right processes and technology are in place. When done right, citizen development can help you:

Meet the growing need for apps

Today every company is a software company and needs more applications to improve operational efficiency, drive innovation, and generate revenue. IDC predicts that by 2023, over 500 million apps will be developed. That’s the same number of apps developed in the last 40 years! IT, with its limited resources, is never going to be able to build the apps business needs in time. Citizen Development represents the best bet to overcome this challenge.

Address shortage of skilled developers

With the software developer unemployment rate below 1.9%, there’s a limited pool of skilled developers in the market. The stark shortage of talent puts additional pressure on IT. Organizations that adopt a formal citizen development program address the challenges of talent shortage head-on by empowering non-technical, highly motivated business users to build apps that solve their immediate problems.

Govern shadow IT

Our recent study confirms that 78% of IT and business leaders agree shadow IT has increased greatly over the past 5 years. While the existence of shadow IT is mostly good (yes, it really is), when left unchecked it can create a technical wild west for IT. Instead, IT should govern it using a program like citizen development. When a recognized citizen development program is in place, all those must-have apps are built on IT-approved platforms, giving IT the visibility and control they need to maintain and monitor quality and security.

Boost IT and business productivity

Citizen development provides business users with the approved technology and required IT support to build the basic productivity apps they need. When citizen developers build their own apps, they can perform their job more efficiently, help the company save on operating costs, and help reduce IT backlog. IT can then focus on more technically complex projects like legacy modernization, core system extensions, and enterprise-wide applications.

Break down silos

As companies grow, so too do the silos within the organization. There’s already a disconnect between IT and the business. Citizen development can help repair this disconnect by creating an opportunity for business users and professional developers to work collaboratively. For instance, when the app a citizen developer is building on the IT-approved tool gets complex, they can invite a professional developer to help build the complex parts in the same tool.

Citizen Development the Mendix Way

A key component to ensure the success of citizen development is picking the right technology. IT needs to think through the needs of their organization and partner with the business to pick the technology and define the processes that will enable more people to build software the right way. The Mendix low-code platform is uniquely positioned to meet the needs of a citizen development initiative.

  • Simplified development environment

    Our visual model-driven development environment is supported by AI-assisted development tools.

  • Re-usable components

    Leverage work of professional developers into reusable, drag -and-drop modules.

  • Collaboration

    Use built-in tools to collaborate with professional developers on complex features or integrations.

  • Governance

    Maintain control and prevent ungoverned adoption of the low-code tool with the platform’s in-built guardrails. Wrangle the landscape of solutions with Mendix Control Center.

  • Accelerate time to value

    Get results quickly and reduce the risk that critical apps aren’t being built.

Citizen Development in Action

When IT organizations embrace the correct technology, they empower citizen developers to contribute and build apps the right way.

Take Yasmijn Joosten, for example. With no software development background, Yasmijn was able to develop applications that enhanced operational efficiency at Kuehne + Nagel, one of the world’s leading logistics companies.

One of the apps Yasmijn built helps warehouse workers perform their jobs efficiently. It automates an existing manual process and even leverages wearable technology.

The new app saves Kuehne + Nagel time, reduces the potential cost of shipping errors, and supports a more digital way of working.

“What I like about creating is that you see the product grow and turn into a value-adding product for your customers.”

Yasmijn Joosten
Mendix Solution Developer
Kuehne + Nagel

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is citizen development?

    Citizen development is business users with little to no coding experience building simple business applications with IT-approved technology like low code to improve their day-to-day productivity or an existing business process.

  • Why is citizen development important?

    There’s a growing need for apps in every business – IDC predicts that by 2023, over 500 million apps will be developed. On the one hand, business needs apps to perform their jobs efficiently. On the other hand, IT is unable to meet the demand for new apps – they have limited skilled resources and a huge backlog of unmet solution requests. When IT doesn’t deliver, business suffers. Through citizen development, business and IT can partner together to build solutions the organization needs – faster and with less rework. Additionally, citizen development will also help IT to govern shadow IT.

  • What is a citizen developer?

    Citizen Developer is a user who creates new business applications for consumption by others using development tools like low code that are sanctioned by corporate IT.

  • Who is citizen development for?

    Typically, departments like operations, customer service, etc. that need to deal with data collection, approvals, processing on a day-to-day basis will benefit from a formal citizen development initiative. At the individual level, an employee who is fairly technical or has a deep subject matter expertise (like business analysts or non-IT operations team member) and a desire to build apps is likely to become a citizen developer. However, with the right tool and training, any business unit in the organization can reap in the benefits of citizen development.

  • How do you govern citizen development?

    For citizen development to work effectively, it’s important that the organization formally institutes a citizen development program. When a recognized citizen development program is in place, all those must-have apps are built on IT-approved platforms, giving IT the visibility and control they need to maintain and monitor quality and security. IT needs to think through the needs of their organization and partner with the business to define the scope for the program and pick the right technology to enable more business users to build apps the right way.

  • How can companies leverage citizen developers more?

    A key component to encourage more citizen developers is picking the right technology. IT should partner with the business to identify the needs of their organization, define the scope of the citizen development program, and jointly select the right tool. Furthermore, companies need to provide proper training and ongoing IT support and governance to ensure the continued success of the citizen development initiative.