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Citizen Development

Citizen Development

Technology and software are always improving, yet it doesn't become more complex every day. On the contrary, the development of the IT sector is optimizing user experience, making more and more people capable of using that technology.

In other words, while on the one hand, IT devices and tools are becoming more and more powerful, they are also becoming easier and easier to use. Today, for example, programming is no longer an exclusive prerogative of experienced software engineers; because of the tools we can deploy today, people like me can become a developer, or rather, citizen developers.

This is where the phenomenon is known, and citizen development comes from. In this article, we'll explore what it is, the benefits of citizen development for a business, the skills required for a citizen developer, and the tools that allow this process inside a business.

What is citizen development?

Citizen development is a term that we can use to describe a growing trend we can observe within businesses of any kind: it is the process that wants non-professional developers to become software developers for their company or business needs. What does it mean?

Today, all businesses, companies, and professionals in any sector need software and automation. Whether it is to create applications for their customers or to automate some business processes, they all need it. As long as application development has been a hard matter, something that only professional developers could handle, when a business needed to create applications or build software, they were forced to hire a professional developer or, in the case of bigger corporations, create an entire IT department within the company.

Now, things are different. Today, no-code platforms allow anyone to build software without writing code. What does it mean for businesses? Even if there are no individuals with an education in software development, those individuals can still embark on the application development process because it no longer requires years of education and deep knowledge. Citizen developers are, therefore, individuals with just some skills in application development who can make changes to existing applications or create new ones thanks to no-code platforms.

What are no-code platforms?

As you can easily guess, no-code platforms have a central role in the citizen development trend. But what are they?

no-code drag-and-drop

As their name suggests, no-code tools are desktop or web apps created to allow citizen developers and business users to embark on the app development process without writing code but using a visual interface and pre-built building blocks to assemble.

When any business users can use a citizen development program to build software, business owners and professionals no longer need to hire professional developers, and they can lighten their IT department by reducing managing costs.

Who is a citizen developer, and what they do?

We've said that citizen development is a process that allows individuals, non-professional developers,  to create applications and software and become software developers. These individuals are the citizen developers. Also a citizen developer could be a person who is already working in your company and who, thanks to no-code platforms, can create custom business applications for themselves, their colleagues, and clients. Citizens developers can have little software knowledge and zero coding knowledge and experience. They would be completely motivated and focused on creating applications customized to the company's needs and goals.

With the no-code citizen development programs at their disposal, citizen developers are extremely empowered:

  • They no longer have to wait for the approval or collaboration of a professional software developer to bring their ideas forward.
  • They can work on their own projects.
  • They can use software to solve business problems with full autonomy.

As we're about to discover in the next paragraph, however, citizen development doesn't only have benefits for citizen developers.

The benefits of citizen development

Citizen development has benefits in a lot of business areas, from employee empowerment to reduction of costs to innovation. Let's analyze the main ones in detail.

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IT need

The first fact we need to acknowledge is how citizen development meets a growing need of today's businesses: the one for IT, machine learning tools, and software resources. Whether it is to manage and solve business problems, develop applications for customers, or for business users, digitalization is a central theme in every business of every dimension and in every sector.

Growing need for apps

Other than software in general, businesses today need more mobile applications than ever before: every one of us possesses at least one smartphone, and when both all your employees and all your clients have a mobile, you need to exploit that as an opportunity to, on one side, improve your business processes and, on the other, increase your traffic, audience, and sales. With citizen development programs developing business applications and mobile apps for your clients becomes easier and cost-effective for any citizen developer.

Employees empowerment

Just like we've discussed in the previous paragraph, citizen development can help remove a lot of frustration from forward-thinking employees. When the frustration comes from the inability to meet the targets, the loss of competitive advantage, and the impossibility of working on their own idea but having to wait for the availability of the software development department, citizen development can put important application development tools in the hands of citizen developers.

Reduction of app development costs

When you don't need to hire an application development team or professional developers at all, you and your business can save a lot of money. However, a citizen developer developing applications for your business determines a reduction of the costs even if that particular individual has an education in the app development sector. This is because no-code platforms and citizen development programs are great tools, of course, even when they are in the hands of educated programmers. They ease their job, make it smoother, and shorten and ease the testing and code review phases. All aspects inevitably reduce app development costs.

No more shortage of skilled developers

With the increase in the need for application development skills in the job market, the job market has addressed a shortage of available professional programmers in the last few years. With citizen development, it becomes easier to cover the shortage because it is easier to acquire the skill that allows motivated employees to become citizen developers.

Productivity boost

When any citizen developer can easily create business applications to improve and automate their workflow, the job can be performed more efficiently. This is even more true when, instead of adjusting the workflow to a downloaded app with its own features, a citizen developer can design an app created specifically for their and their job's needs.

Professional developer vs citizen developer

When business users first hear about citizen development, they have the impression that citizen development is a sort of compromise: when you can't find application development specialists to hire when you want to reduce app development costs, you can have citizen developers inside your company that can try to their best and gets a result that is almost as good as a professional one.

It's not like that at all. Citizen development isn't a compromise, and it is a choice, a way of optimizing the resource at your disposal. In many cases, a citizen developer might be even preferable to a professional developer. Why?

First, citizen developers are often more in tune with the business needs because they are users themselves. Second, citizen developers can be faster and more agile in their development because they are not constrained by the same processes and protocols as professional developers. Finally, citizen developers typically cost less than professional developers.

So citizen development isn't a compromise but rather an opportunity to get the most out of your resources. It can be used in combination with professional developers or as a standalone solution, depending on your needs and preferences. In either case, citizen development should always be considered when you need to develop applications quickly and cost-effectively. 

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The bottom line is that citizen development can offer tremendous advantages for businesses that want to take advantage of technology for their own purposes. By leveraging citizen developers, businesses can ensure speedy application development and reduce costs at the same time. So if you're looking for a way to quickly create applications without hiring professional developers, citizen development may be just what you need!

Why do you need citizen development in your organization?

citizen development

There are several reasons why you need citizen development in your organization:

  1. There is a growing need for business applications, and the demand comes from both business users and customers. Citizen development is the quickest and most cost-effective answer.
  2. Customers are increasingly used to getting anything they want from their smartphones. The demand for mobile applications has grown exponentially, and it is expected to grow even further. Again, citizen development is the best answer.
  3. Citizen application development allows common business users to feel endorsed by their organization. Motivation and productivity would improve as a consequence.
  4. Citizen development is cost-effective when compared to the traditional app development process.
  5. Citizen development is also more flexible than the alternative because with no code platforms, not only it's easier to create business applications, but it is also easier to update them. In the app development world that is constantly evolving, a citizen developer needs to be able to update the apps and tools easily and quickly.

What are the skills required for a citizen developer?

How can you spot a potential citizen developer within your team? These are the skills that you should be looking for:

  • First of all, citizen developers are not part of your IT department (if you have one). They can be application administrators, business analysts, user-experience designers, business intelligence specialists, and more.
  • Citizen developers have deep business knowledge. This is what makes them capable of designing the exact types of business applications you might need.
  • Citizen developers should be individuals that use software, even though they do not code, in their everyday life.

Why is AppMaster the best no-code tool for citizen developers?

Now that we've covered any other aspect, we need to consider the best no-code platform to support citizen developers in their citizen development journey.

AppMaster is the most recommended no-code citizen development platform because:

  • It's a no-code platform that provides app building blocks and a visual interface that allows the creation of business applications without coding.
  • AppMaster is scalable: it allows one to create simple applications and work on complex business projects.
  • It allows a citizen developer to provide the company's clients or business users with web applications and mobile apps that are created for their needs and that can be constantly updated.
  • AppMaster provides full control over citizen developers' projects. They have full access to the backend code that is automatically created to have the full property of what they are creating.
  • AppMaster generates optimized code that does not need review: it shortens and improves the citizen development journey even more.
  • Other than applications, with AppMaster, citizen developers can provide colleagues and customers with source code and documentation.
  • AppMaster has a fast learning curve, even thanks to the documentation provided by AppMaster itself.

An interesting fact: AppMaster has launched its own university where you can learn not only this platform but also learn basic knowledge in the field of programming. The course is absolutely free and is divided into different levels of difficulty. You can start from scratch or advanced level.

Citizen development: wrapping up

No-code software like AppMaster makes citizen development possible for thousands of businesses that want to improve and grow. Now that you know all the benefits and where to start, it's time for you and your company to start your citizen development journey.

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