Empower Citizen Developers in your Enterprise

In today’s digital world, Apps have become an essential part of all enterprise activities.  App demands are driven by both external customers, who demand it to be interactive and internal customers(employees), who want tons of custom business apps to be built.  Internal app demands are primarily generated by non-technical-business teams.  The apps are usually non-mission-critical but business-critical apps.  The people who demand these apps are business users who usually have limited -technical knowledge.  A small portion of these app demands are getting satiated by out-of-the-box SaaS services but they still have a big chunk of custom demands that have to be built…  There is an inherent dependency created on the technical/IT teams to take care of these app needs.  But in organizations, IT/technical teams have focused mostly on the core/mission-critical apps.  This creates a catch-22 situation for these business app developers, where they themselves cannot create an app and the IT team is a bottleneck.  In essence app development is in the control of a select few technical developers and the IT team.  In other words, there is no “Democratic way to include all stakeholders into the app development process”.  

Unleashing the new generation of “Citizen Developers”

Back in 2011, Gartner predicted that at least 25% of all business applications will be built by citizen developers.  The emergence of the non-technical business developers also called citizen developers is real now.  Gartner defines a citizen developer as “A user who creates new business applications for consumption by others using development and run-time environments sanctioned by corporate IT.”.  

Low-Code Platforms and Citizen Developers

One of the primary reasons for the coming-of-age of the citizen developers is the emergence of modern low-code platforms.  Low-Code platforms like Wavemaker bring in a new zeal for the citizen developers where they can use visual app-building approaches, 1-click deployments, and DIY app maintenance to quickly create an app from an idea.  

However, the emergence of both the citizen developers and low-code platforms has not played out that much with a lot of the enterprise technology leadership.  There are still challenges within enterprises to establish a centralized innovation platform for citizen developers to quickly create an app from an idea.  There are no established methodologies that can be adopted by enterprise IT to make the combo of citizen-developers and low-code-platforms work effectively.  Agile processes are only partially successful with low-code platforms.  Partial involvement of technical teams is still a reality.  Even a small involvement of technical teams brings in big hurdles to unleash the true power of the citizen developer movement.  

Is BiModal-IT a solution?

Is Gartner’s BiModal-IT, a solution for ushering in the Citizen Developer movement? The answer would be  Yes and No.  BiModal-IT is a high-level methodology that is to be employed by enterprises and propagates the creation and operation of 2 distinct teams to tackle the issues of renovation and innovation.  Citizen developers can be employed in both teams, more so in Innovate teams.  

BiModal-IT doesn’t specifically get into the intricacies of how exactly the citizen developers can be empowered.  Gartner though gets into those details in another publication specifically targeting the citizen developers.  There it talks about how Citizen developers can contribute to enterprise innovation(mode 2 of BiModal-IT), how they need separate special infrastructure and tools (like low-code platforms) to get empowered.

low-code citizen developerBimodal IT and Pace Layering (Courtesy: Gartner)

WaveMaker 2-pass development methodology

2-pass development is a new methodology proposed by WaveMaker, specifically targeted at using a low-code platform in the most optimized manner to completely leverage the omnipresent citizen developers in an enterprise to usher an era of enterprise innovation.  

2-pass development methodology, as it says, includes two development passes:

  • A Business Pass, driven by a team comprising of non-technical business developers who build their apps using a low-code platform like WaveMaker.  They build their apps visually by dragging and dropping out-of-the-box UI components.  When there is a custom requirement for an app, they pass on the development for a “Technical Pass
  • A Technical Pass, driven by a team comprising of technical experts and developers writes the code and wraps them as visual components, that can be used by the Business Pass team to build apps.  

*Read more about the 2-pass development approach and its benefits in my blog here.

2-pass development methodology bridges the missing links bring in much-needed standardization and process optimization into the app development using low-code platforms with citizen developers.

This setup can enable the enterprise citizen developers in a big way and usher in innovation within the enterprise.  “Democratization of app development” becomes a reality. WaveMaker platform is helping customers serve theirs. It is truly commendable how low-code platforms like WaveMaker is helping add tremendous amounts of value to many enterprises by giving them the freedom to build codeless, intuitive technology at the click of the mouse.


4 catalysts for a citizen developer revolution

How can IT fuel the grassroots movement for citizen development and pave the way for frictionless enterprise application delivery?

Citizen development efforts are poised to grow rapidly in the next few years, led by the increasing adoption of cloud-based platforms, which simplify access to corporate data. Enterprises across the board are keen to embrace citizen developer tools not only to amass productivity gains but also because business users are tired of waiting for IT to deliver the applications they need at the speed of business. Let us look at how you can create the right conditions and catalysts for a citizen developer revolution at your enterprise.

Who is a citizen developer?

According to Gartner, “a citizen developer is a user who creates new business applications for consumption by others using development and runtime environments sanctioned by corporate IT. In the past, end-user application development has typically been limited to single-user or workgroup solutions built with tools like Microsoft Excel and Access. However, today, end users can build departmental, enterprise and even public applications using shared services, fourth-generation language (4GL)-style development platforms and cloud computing services.”

Preconditions for citizen development

The above definition also contains two preconditions that are necessary for citizen development:

  • IT-sanctioned environment: Creating applications using tools that are not sanctioned by IT is “shadow IT” at best, not citizen development. Citizen development yields the best results when it is done in partnership with the IT department. In fact, enterprises should take a step further and choose a platform that relies on open systems and technologies to avoid vendor lock-in.
  • Low-code development platform: Businesses are frustrated with having to wait for months in the IT queue and then getting something that was not what they asked for. They are looking for platforms that reduce cycle times and improve organizational agility by delivering applications at the pace of business. Enterprises should use low-code tools that use a rapid application development model, which supports visual (drag-and-drop) development and incorporates user feedback iteratively using rapid prototyping.

Catalysts that foster citizen development

Aside from the necessary preconditions, enterprise IT needs to take the leadership role by doing the following to foster a grassroots citizen development movement that benefits both business and IT:

  • Set legacy data free: In most enterprises, decades of delivering enterprise IT apps using proprietary software have locked not only IT dollars but also a substantial amount of enterprise data. In order to democratize application development, the data residing in legacy systems need to be set free. If you are still using legacy systems (and you’re not alone), immediately set in motion a plan to modernize legacy applications built on proprietary software such as Lotus Notes, Oracle Forms, and Microsoft Access.
  • Jumpstart application design: Custom applications built using no/low-code tools tend to stand out for their primordial UI and non-conformant design. Make sure you choose low-code tools that support out-of-the-box themes and templates for dashboards, login, and more. Templates not only reduce the time to design the app but also provide standardization across enterprise apps. It would be even better if IT can create a standard theme that can be readily applied to an application created by business users.
  • Enable last-mile development: To really bridge the business-IT gap, business users should be empowered to deliver even sophisticated applications. But limited coding skills for customization hold them back. Hence, commonly used code for integration, APIs, compliance, or security should be readily available and reusable across applications. For instance, WaveMaker RAD Platform provides Prefabs, reusable micro apps that abstract underlying complexity, so that business users can simply mash up an app using these reusable, independent, and tested micro-apps.
  • Strike the governance balance: While the benefits of citizen development are indisputable, the risks of serious security or compliance problems should not be discounted. Finding the right balance between productivity and control is vital for citizen development to succeed. IT leaders should unite application developers and business users so they can work together to efficiently optimize both the applications and the processes. For instance, IT should closely evaluate and choose a low-code tool that offers highly configurable governance capabilities such as role-based access controls. Ultimately, citizen developers should be able to create secure, compliant applications while offering IT the transparency of maintaining control.