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How Citizen Developers are Leading in Custom App Development

mobile-app-developmentApplications are becoming increasingly more critical to business success. In fact, enterprise developers are under intense pressure to deliver useful and customized apps more quickly than ever before. The one thing can that can help ease some of that stress is the citizen developer. What is a citizen developer, you may ask? According to Technopedia, they are end users who create new applications from a collective code base. To illustrate, it is often a company employee tasked with using  rapid application development (RAD) tools to make applications more efficient and tailored for specific use. Essentially they can create simple business applications utilizing “low code” or “no code.” In this article, we discuss how citizen developers are leading the way for quick development initiatives.

The rise of low code

Through technological advancements, software development can be carried out by almost anyone. The reason is the rise of low code. Thus, it is much easier for employees to become citizen developers than ever before. As a result, they are helping to create new business applications sanctioned by corporate IT.

In addition, the IT department can then focus on more complex and mission-critical apps. Low code platforms allow citizen developers to create simple apps that can integrate with systems already in place. This means organizations no longer have to modify their IT infrastructure in order to adapt to a custom app. According to Gartner, around 70 percent of businesses will have citizen development policies in place by 2020.

Although, companies need to be open minded to the opportunities presented through low coding platforms. The root of the rise of RAD tools is based on frustration with traditional software delivery. And, through cloud hosting–many software companies have increased their offering of open APIs. In fact, the offerings have doubled over the past two years–reaching over 10,000 APIs.

Low code apps can be glued between important business applications. Therefore, citizen developers don’t have to worry about needing to recreate large amounts of core code. These types of changes are already happening quickly in the land down under. And, it is important to note that cloud experts in Australia agree that hosting helps when finding storage for all of these newly created apps. Of course, it helps to understand how hosting can work for you. Here is where you can a few tutorials.

Is there a learning curve?

Of course, with any new activity, there certainly is. Yet, RAD tools can be utilized as easily as drag-and-drop interfaces. Some even include pre-written code for advanced features such as geolocation. Although, this is still an early adopter trend–analysts believe it will soon be commonplace in many businesses. Citizen developers can increase the speed of release for simple business applications. This eases the frustration of users who no longer have the patients for apps that take too long to get developed.

A transformation

The current challenge is determining where low code platforms and citizen developers can fit into the business structure. Often, software development is pushed to the IT department. And, they tend to say within their silo. When an employee, outside of the IT department, creates a custom app it can put a cog in the wheel of the integration process since the IT team will usually have to take over and understand how to continue to work.

On the other hand, digital transformation is becoming the core of business success. If your company wants to be in the public eye, it must be transformative. Companies are starting to see departments integrating and lines beginning to blur. Business agility, across all departments, is the first step. The next step is for the company to allow for consistent innovation. Otherwise, citizen developers will not have the ability to thrive and many opportunities will be missed.

Responsibilities will shift

With professional developers, they are facing a bit of a fork in the road. On one hand, citizen developers can help to decrease the industry-wide backlog for software development. On the other hand, the more applications developed by citizen developers means a decreased demand for their services. Citizen developers can work on apps that many professional developers consider boring.

Yet, at the Salesforce TrailheaDX 2016 conference, the company credited citizen and professional developers together. Dylan Steele, senior director of product marketing for App Cloud & IoT Cloud at Salesforce said,  “We’re trying to fill the gap in developer skills. Organizations can choose to write code or make use of our declarative tools to create applications.”

Moreover, at a Mendix World 2016 conference, it was announced that advanced analytics and machine learning capabilities will be made available to both citizen and professional developers. Mendix CEO Derek Roos said, “The world’s most powerful technologies are being democratized, but today it’s taking ages to build a relatively simple experience.” And, this study showed that 43 percent of smartphone users are not impressed with the corporate mobile apps they’re required to use at work.

While RAD tools continue to improve, in terms of a variety of offerings, companies can start to create customized solutions that addresses specific company issues. Then, as more organizations realize the benefits citizen developers and RAD tools provide, the innovations will be unstoppable.


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