Low-code and no-code platforms are revolutionising the software development landscape. By leveraging low-code and no-code technologies, organisations can empower “citizen developers" to design and build applications with limited or no coding expertise.
An apt way to describe citizen developers is that they are like creative problem solvers within an organisation. They are not professional IT experts, but they use no-code platforms to build useful applications for themselves or their teams. These tools are not constrained by the organisation's IT or business departments.
Democratising development processes
According to Gartner, the term "citizen developer" describes a role someone takes on, rather than an official job title, and they typically work in parts of the business other than IT. The benefit of citizen development in the context of low-code and no-code platforms is that they democratise the development process by removing the barriers that often hinder traditional development cycles. The result is increased agility, speed and flexibility, combined with rapid prototyping.
Adopting a 'fail-fast' culture
Adopting a fail-fast culture is essential if organisations are to thrive and grow. Fail-fast is an approach to starting a project, gathering feedback quickly and then deciding whether to continue or change direction. A fail-fast culture is about adapting quickly, learning from what doesn't work and finding the best way forward. It's not about failing in a negative sense but using failure as a tool for innovation.
Triggering digital innovation
A citizen developer mindset is critical for organisations undergoing digital transformation. This is because it's based on the premise that who better to understand and address departmental challenges than the teams that face them every day? Using no-code or low-code platforms, citizen developers can create bespoke digital solutions as part of an organisation's digital transformation journey, driving efficiency and innovation from within.
According to Statista, global spending on digital transformation is expected to reach $3.4 trillion by 2026. This coincides with the growth of low-code and no-code platforms, with Gartner predicting that over 65% of development projects will use them by 2025. As the market for these platforms grows, so does their use within organisations. With the added capabilities of generative AI and no-code, organisations can accelerate the development process and reduce technical debt. This brings a whole new perspective to application development, massively accelerating and redefining citizen development.
If your goal is to cultivate teams of citizen developers within your organisation, it's important to start on a solid footing. A strong foundation is essential for a successful citizen developer programme. The following are key building blocks for fostering effective citizen development in your organisation:
It’s essential to prioritise a shift in your organisational culture. By integrating citizen development into your digital transformation strategy, you ensure that your enterprise doesn't merely adopt new technologies but maximises their potential for growth, efficiency, and innovation. You can set your teams up for success by streamlining the process of building and deploying automations.
Investing in low-code and no-code platforms can lead to significant IT cost savings for organisations. Ensure that the automation platform you choose aligns with your organisation's technical architecture and business strategy, with a focus on ease of use and flexibility. Remember, the goal is to simplify the process for your employees, so choose a platform that's intuitive and meets your organisation's specific needs.
In addition, start by demystifying the concept of citizen development for your employees through workshops and training sessions. Equip teams with knowledge of no-code platforms and encourage them to explore and innovate. By understanding the powerful capabilities at their fingertips, teams may be more inclined to experiment and create.
Clear policies are critical to effectively fostering citizen development within your organisation. Consider implementing protocols for application review and security audits, and ensure that solutions are aligned with the organisation's broader goals and IT ecosystem. Work with risk and security teams to identify and address vulnerabilities. You can further define roles for business units and supporting functions, such as risk and compliance, to enable your citizen developer programmes to operate successfully. You can also increase oversight of a citizen developer programme by creating different categories of citizen developers with different roles and responsibilities.
According to a McKinsey study, companies that empower citizen developers score 33 percent higher on innovation than companies in the bottom quartile. Consider creating a rewards and recognition framework to motivate citizen developers in your organisation. Celebrate the teams and individuals who use the platform effectively. Whether it's through monthly awards, shout-outs in company newsletters, or tangible incentives, make it known that innovation is valued and rewarded.
Finally, implement a comprehensive change management plan to help teams adapt to new ways of working, emphasising the power of automation and AI. A robust strategy can include cultivating change ambassadors to align stakeholder interests across the organisation.
Starting small with citizen development
The key to success with citizen development is to start with smaller projects and grow steadily from there. One digital transformation project started with just a small team of citizen developers, who were able to successfully pilot their teams to create fully functional applications within a year. Proving the value and readiness of a citizen developer programme in a small, controlled setting can be the first step to realising its full benefits across the organisation. As lessons are learned and the programme scales, the framework and model can be iterated and refined. Through skills, training and oversight, organisations can create mechanisms to monitor progress and avert potential challenges.
Harnessing creativity for sustainable change
Fostering a citizen developer culture in your organisation can be a game changer. By empowering your teams to create customised digital solutions, you're not just streamlining processes, you're building a culture of innovation and empowerment. As a leader or decision-maker, understanding and encouraging citizen development could be one of the most impactful decisions you make for your organisation
Remember, citizen development is not just about integrating new technologies–it's about integrating your people, their creativity, and their potential to drive sustainable change.
Content Marketing ManagerJza Abbas
Jza Abbas is a Content Marketing Manager at smapOne. Her expertise includes SaaS, digital transformation, digital skills and training, tech labour market trends, and policy analysis. She has worked with various international organisations and corporations, helping guide policy and strategies in the industry.
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