Citizen Developers? Who Are They And how To Become One

February 22, 2022
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What is a citizen developer?

Citizen Developer is the term used to refer to individuals who are able to design, create and build computer programs or software applications, features, and/or functionalities without needing to know programming languages themselves, nor needing the intervention of IT departments instead, they leverage their creativities on “No code” or “low code” software programs with pre-build capabilities, hence becoming end-users developing their own solutions.

Is the IT department needed to be a citizen developer?

Of course IT specialists may be involved to ensure proper security and compliance, but it is the line of business that is empowered to solve problems by creating applications. Is not wrong to say that for many businesses of various sizes, a recurrent problem shows up: the limited business impact and IT’s reduced capability to deliver new results on time, that reality has provided the environment for the rise of citizen development into perspective.

Why is no-code relevant?

No-code programs have made it conceivable to make robust and valuable applications to many different kinds of professionals of many different disciplines with virtually no preparation in programming or coding skills.

Almost as a philosophical approach to technology, the no-code wave has been amassing an important number of adepts mostly because of one reason: people want to create without friction and slow-downs; as one recent Gartner study reveals: 61% of US-based organizations either have or plan to have active citizen development initiatives. The bet for the democratization of technology is very much ongoing.

No-code stages allow individuals with a fundamental comprehension of business needs and critical thinking abilities to fabricate apps, automatization, integrations, or features for a whole division or the entire organization. Early experimentation is and should remain a way to quickly validate ideas by building something functional before hiring or investing in potentially high-cost development.

In the case of AI, validating the possibility of using the data that an organization, initiative, or idea has to create predictive models or cognitive capabilities to intelligently process the organization's assets (documents, texts, images, recordings, audio, etc) before deciding to develop a user application that can take advantage of these smart services.

Another interesting application of no-code AI is to create prototypes or quick validations that are use cases for Life-science, in areas such as neuroscience or cancer. Before investing millions of dollars in AI or ML research and involving talent hard to find, scientists have today a way to experiment themselves their own ideas and evaluate the next steps. Also, scientists have this mindset of experimentation and iteration that fits extremely well with AI implementations.

This is where AI can help in truly significant ways. No-code can be valuable in an assortment of initiatives and capacities, including application advancement, next-level automation where RPA is not enough; as well as in work processes that work or produce any type of data, whether it be text, audio, image, or video.

Citizen developers take the spotlight by resorting to this set of programs in order to produce meaningful improvements and use cases such as: automating transcriptions of recordings of video and audio, executing automatic translations, analyzing these audios and their transcriptions with intelligent services to measure sentiment, emotions or obtain recommendations of actions to take, image recognition to validate business rules. That is just to name a few cases.

Why it makes sense to become a citizen developer

Ever tried to build or improve something in or for an app or program just to be reminded you will need to make changes in the code for that to happen?

Code that otherwise would need developers, and on that matter... is no secret to anyone that the current state of software development environment is plagued with one word: shortage. In fact, it's been talked about and predicted for quite some time.

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Only in the US, the programming language professionals shortage will reach 1.2 million by 2026 jobs needed, According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. So where to look for answers and alternatives?

Most companies, most new businesses, and everyday people are looking for ways to get closer to their audience, to truly innovate (If you aren’t yet, you need to check this out), to reach their customer network in better ways, and conceive ways to be present in their daily lives, shortening distances, and providing increasingly complete and immediate digital services.

This accelerated digitization and transformation pace is getting more difficult under traditional development and programming models since limits the ability to do business with the speed of response that the present world requires.

The reality is that it would be almost impossible to keep up with this dizzying pace, if we consider that each new challenge would have to be channeled by the technical team, or if each new application, feature, or improvement to it would have to require the dedication of programmers. Maintaining this model is inefficient and very expensive, even for companies with large IT structures.

Now more than ever businesses face the challenge to secure a solid talent base of software programmers, even for development companies the impact of the scarcity of professionals in this area has made its way, opening the door to hirings without a basic clear understanding of a programming language, knowledge of database integration; relentless salary-bait jobs; accelerated personnel rotation and pressured team assemblage, many times resulting in un-fitness of roles and company cultures.

How to become a citizen developer?

Time to get in and make this your next skill. Start by getting to know the ecosystem, then define challenges and bottle-neck problems that otherwise would need a developer; research and explore tools that can help you solve these matters and won't face you with extensive training and learning curves. Take the initiative to test and demo these tools and services to make sure is the right fit for your idea.

You can start trying some of the popular no-code tools:

Webflow for landing pages, CMS, and e-commerce.

Bubble for web applications

Airtable for databases

Zapier or Integromat for integrations

There is extensive documentation on the subject, so try to start by narrowing the type of tools your project need. By joining digital communities you’ll make sure to stay updated and learning from others’ experiences, check this guide, it can help you with the proper definition of objectives and the no-code tools that can help you overcome it.

Citizen Development and no-code, in general, provide a very powerful perspective, in addition to impacting the technological acceleration of an organization due to the exponential increase in people enabled to work on software solutions, it also demands a radical change in traditional methods of carrying out projects and opportunities in business.

It invites to address innovation initiatives with much more collaborative, multidisciplinary, and participatory teams in which the owners of the processes will not only state the work requirement but will also be the ones who carry out the applications, considering first-hand their experience with customers, their expectations and the key inputs to achieve success in each phase of the process.

Yes, your IT department can be be involved to ensure proper security and compliance, but from now on it will be the individuals and teams in the many lines of business that are and will be empowered to solve problems by creating new realities.

Marcelo Martinez CEO co-founder Cogniflow
Marcelo Martinez
Co-Founder & CEO @ Cogniflow AI

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