There’s been a lot of buzz recently about low code, no code, and citizen developers. With all the pressures for faster development cycles, stronger tech support, and better business applications, it’s no wonder people are getting excited at the prospect of citizen developers.
Citizen development empowers regular business users to use low code and no code applications to build SaaS apps, script repetitive tasks, create more automated processes, and make workgroup databases. Giving these users the ability to deliver enterprise-class applications without coding can take pressure off the IT department and give them the fluidity to focus on larger, heavily coded projects.
The concept of low code and no code has picked up steam in recent years for this reason. In a 2017 report by Kintone, one in five executives said at least 50% of their applications were developed outside the IT department.
However, IT teams still worry that low code and no code environments could breed disruption and create “shadow IT”. Shadow IT occurs when non-IT professionals set up their own servers using applications that haven’t been approved. This can create serious security concerns for an IT team trying to protect data and secure cloud assets.
So, where’s the middle ground? Are the advantages of citizen developers enough to justify more low code/no code projects?
With the right approach, it may be possible, but we must strategize around the strengths and weaknesses of this model to make it a reality. This post will review the pros and cautions, and then highlight some best practices for IT and citizen developer collaboration.
No Code & Low Code
Before we get into the pros and cautions of citizen developers, it’s important to understand what low code and no code environments are and how they’re supposed to support the efforts of these individuals.
Low code and no code solutions are designed with “regular” users in mind. They are platforms that use built-in tools, governance and security features, and easy-to-navigate interfaces to allow non-technical users to assemble, test, and launch applications with limited or even zero knowledge of code writing. Many low code or no code solutions offer tutorials, live support options, and point-and-click capabilities to make the development process even faster.
The best low code and no code environments are cloud-based. Why is that better? Cloud-based applications are updated more often, accessible remotely, and they rely on real-time data processing – so teams can collaborate from anywhere and see each other’s changes instantly.
The right no code/low code solution also is dynamic enough to build apps for any platform or device. A cross-platform solution will allow users to build apps for Mac, PC, Android, or iPhone with consistency, and without a loss of functionality.
Citizen Developer Pros
With the right support, citizen developers can make headway not only for the IT department, but for the entire company, and their own individual roles within that company.
For IT teams buried with app-development projects, citizen development is a chance to break free and instead focus their energy on more innovative, high-code projects.
For the company, the collaboration of IT and citizen developers means they don’t need an army of programmers to create what they need. More importantly, it’s an opportunity to broaden the number of people who can help with digital transformation, which can lead more profitability for the company over time.
As a non-IT participant in all of this, the citizen developer brings his or her unique perspective to the table. While citizen developers may have limited tech knowledge, they make up for it with their business knowledge. They can spearhead the development of applications and processes to create an outcome that meets the exact requirements they desire. And, because low code and no code platforms offer pre-built features and visual tools, the citizen developer can put these new applications into action up to 10x faster than traditional methods.
Citizen Developer Cautions
As mentioned earlier, one of the greatest fears around citizen developers is the introduction of shadow IT. If business users are storing information in personal cloud accounts, or using applications and assets without IT’s knowledge, it can easily create unnecessary risks for the company.
IT teams may find themselves wondering just how far citizen developers will go – Will these users make too many changes to existing applications? Add new functions that won’t work with processes?
These are legitimate concerns, but if ground rules are set in place, shadow IT and overzealous citizen development will no longer be a concern.
How Can Citizen Developers Help IT?
Citizen development can drive tremendous value for developers, but not without some collaboration and guidance. Here are a few best practices tips for a successful IT and citizen developer relationship:
- Standardize – By standardizing how citizen developers can use a low code or no code platform, the IT team can better manage and support them. It’s easier to recognize an issue or security vulnerability when you have guidelines for what’s appropriate.
- Employ Data Governance Rules – Make citizen developers accountable to IT to avoid shadow IT issues and over-customization. IT teams should be alerted when a citizen developer starts building an app. This communication allows IT to back up their colleagues and guide them away from development mistakes and security missteps.
- Monitor and Assess Applications – Just because one person thinks something is useful or a good idea, doesn’t mean everyone else finds value in it. When IT can monitor app usability and assess their functionality, they can ensure the new developments are useful and functioning appropriately.
- Collaborate, Collaborate, Collaborate! – Citizen developers and IT teams shouldn’t be enemies. They’re working towards the same common goal: Make the business run more efficiently and make everyone’s jobs easier. If the two sides collaborate on projects, they’ll find greater success in the outcomes. IT will bring their technical focus into the project and guide it in the right direction, and citizen developers will offer their business perspectives and ideas to streamline the application for maximum usefulness.
So, regarding the question “Can Citizen Developers Help IT?”, the short answer is YES. With collaboration, communication, and a few guidelines, IT and citizen developers can work in harmony to create application and automation magic.
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