What is Citizen Development?
Citizen Development was introduced to assist businesses with long-standing challenges, including issues such as lengthy queues for IT tasks, a shortage of developers, and high costs associated with software development. Moreover, businesses need to adapt to rapidly changing business situations – often faster than their software and systems can keep up with.
Citizen Development aims to relieve the IT department and enables a business unit to create its own applications without having to seek help from IT. Sometimes, the term “Citizen Development” is misunderstood and confused with “Shadow IT.”
Definition of Citizen Development
Citizen Development refers to the process in which individuals without extensive programming skills independently create applications and software solutions using specialized platforms known as Citizen Development Tools. These user-friendly tools facilitate visual development, often employing low-code or no-code approaches. The goal is to empower professionals from various business domains to quickly and efficiently develop customized solutions without immediate reliance on the IT department. Collaboration with IT, however, remains crucial to ensure security standards and integration aspects.
Citizen Development vs. Shadow IT: an overview
Citizen Development and Shadow IT are two distinct approaches to managing IT resources within companies.
The term Shadow IT refers to the unauthorized use of IT resources, applications, or devices within an organization without formal approval or oversight from the IT department. These activities often occur without structure and collaboration with IT, leading to security risks and incompatibilities.
On the other hand, Citizen Development is a structured practice where employees without extensive programming skills collaborate with the IT department to create applications. This is typically done using specialized tools and follows clear guidelines to ensure security and integration.
The main difference lies in authorization and structure: Citizen Development is a deliberate, formal collaboration with IT, whereas Shadow IT happens informally and without approval. Overall, both approaches take different paths in handling technological resources within companies.Citizen Development at Daimler Truck
What does a Citizen Developer do?
Citizen Developers are professionals within a company who, despite lacking specific IT or programming expertise, can create software-based applications for their business unit. These so-called business unit developers are technically savvy and often leverage supportive tools like Low-Code platforms to develop applications easily, often following a modular approach. Unlike professional software developers, Citizen Developers do not have formal training in software development. Instead, they use their domain-specific expertise to create applications that meet the specific requirements and processes of their respective business unit. Through this approach, they can quickly respond to the needs of their department and develop customized software solutions.
The foundation of business unit development is the use of so-called Low-Code and No-Code platforms (LCNC). Instead of conventional programming languages, also known as Pro-Code systems, these standardized tools provide graphical models, predefined widgets, visual input options, reusable templates, and simple script syntax. With these elements, Citizen Developers can independently, quickly, cost-effectively, and intuitively implement the desired features for applications. No-Code platforms eliminate text-based programming entirely, while in Low-Code apps, business units can also integrate self-written code statements.
Applications of Citizen Development
Citizen Development is applied in various areas, as employees without formal IT or programming training can develop their own software-based solutions.
Business unit developers can create applications to automate manual processes, save time, and reduce errors. This can include tasks such as data entry, approval workflows, or notifications.
Data visualization and reporting
Citizen Developers can develop dashboards and reporting systems to visualize data from various sources and support business decisions.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
Citizen Developers can create applications tailored to the specific requirements of customer relationship management to improve customer interaction and optimize the sales process.
Inventory and resource management
Applications for tracking inventory, resources, and stocks can be created by Citizen Developers to increase efficiency in various areas of the business.
E-Learning and Training
Citizen Developers can create interactive training applications to facilitate employee access to learning materials and optimize training processes.
Developing applications to manage projects, tasks, and schedules allows Citizen Developers to support and improve project-related processes.
Compliance and documentation
Citizen Developers can create applications that facilitate compliance with regulations and the documentation of business processes, which is particularly important in regulated industries.
Developing applications to manage personnel information, working hours, and leave requests can support the HR department in its tasks.
Customer support and helpdesk
Business unit developers can create applications to optimize customer support and helpdesk processes by providing employees with tools to efficiently handle inquiries.
Citizen Developers can create applications to track marketing activities, plan campaigns, and analyze results.
Advantages of Citizen Development
Citizen Development contributes to enhancing a company’s agility, efficiency, and innovation by enabling employees to actively participate in application development. Several benefits for the company can be derived from this.
Faster application development
Citizen Development allows employees to create applications without extensive programming knowledge. This significantly speeds up the development process as there is no dependency on specialized IT teams.
Involving employees from business units in application development results in solutions tailored precisely to the specific requirements and processes of a team. This leads to more efficient workflows and better alignment with user needs.
The use of Citizen Development can be more cost-effective than hiring professional developers. Employees can independently create applications without the need for external resources, resulting in cost savings.
Agility and flexibility
Citizen Development enables an agile response to changing requirements and business environments. Employees can quickly adjust their applications without waiting for the availability of external developers.
Promotion of innovation
Active involvement of employees in application development fosters a culture of innovation. Employees can find and implement creative solutions to their specific challenges.
Better understanding of business processes
Citizen Developers working in their respective business units have a deep understanding of business processes and requirements. This leads to applications better aligned with the company’s needs.
Reduced IT workload
By leveraging Citizen Development, IT departments can be relieved as business unit employees can create smaller applications independently. IT can focus on more complex development projects.
Promotion of team collaboration
Citizen Development promotes collaboration between different departments. Employees can collaborate on the development of applications, leading to improved communication and teamwork.
Accelerated digital transformation
The ability for employees to develop applications themselves contributes to accelerating digital transformation. Companies can respond more quickly to new technological requirements and implement innovative solutions.
Reduction of bottlenecks
By distributing development tasks to employees in various departments, bottlenecks in software development can be reduced. This allows for a faster implementation of ideas and projects.
Disadvantages of Citizen Development
At the same time, the disadvantages of Citizen Development are important considerations that should be considered when implementing this method to minimize potential risks.
Lack of technical expertise
Citizen Developers often do not have the same level of technical expertise as professional developers. This can lead to inefficient code and potential security vulnerabilities.
Quality and scalability
Applications created by Citizen Developers may not exhibit the same quality and scalability as those developed by experienced software developers. This can pose problems when applications are intended for widespread use.
Lack of knowledge regarding security aspects could result in applications that are vulnerable to security breaches, especially when dealing with sensitive data.
Lack of standardization
Citizen Development can lead to a variety of applications based on different platforms and technologies. This may complicate maintenance, integration, and standardization within the company.
Dependency on individuals
If applications are created by individual Citizen Developers, and these individuals leave the company or change their positions, it can lead to challenges in maintenance and further development.
Citizen Development may not be suitable for complex software projects that require specific expertise. In such cases, professional developers are indispensable.
Lack of Documentation
Applications created by Citizen Developers may not be adequately documented, making future maintenance and knowledge transfer within the team challenging.
Not always cost-effective
While Citizen Development is often considered a cost-effective alternative, inadequate applications may lead to higher long-term costs, especially if extensive rework or upgrades are required.
Lack of compliance
In regulated industries, ensuring that applications created by Citizen Developers comply with required standards can be challenging.
Increase in complexity
While Citizen Development can accelerate the development process, there is a risk that the multitude of applications and platforms may lead to increased complexity in the IT ecosystem.
Citizen Development Tools
Citizen Development Tools offer user-friendly interfaces, drag-and-drop functionalities, and visual modeling to simplify application development. They empower employees from various departments to implement their specific requirements without extensive programming knowledge.
Microsoft Power Platform
The Microsoft Power Platform consists of three main components: Power Apps for application development, Power Automate for workflow automation, and Power BI for data visualization and business intelligence. This platform enables users to create custom applications, automate processes, and visualize data meaningfully without deep programming knowledge.
OutSystems is a Low-Code platform that facilitates the rapid development of enterprise applications and mobile solutions. With a visual development environment and pre-built components, applications can be created with reduced programming effort, thereby shortening the time-to-market.
cplace is regarded as the ultimate platform for Citizen Developers. It allows users to develop solutions in record time, making live changes instantly visible to all users. The platform offers No-Code, Low-Code, and Pro-Code capabilities to fulfill any software requirement. Business users and developers can accelerate their digitization projects and tailor them to meet organizational needs. With tailored software solutions, cplace becomes a shared platform for diverse applications and user groups, customizable and combinable.Get inspired by the cplace Solution Kit
Conclusion on Citizen Development
The product strategy of Citizen Development platform manufacturers is clear: the more potential software developers and users a company has, the greater the number of paid software licenses. Therefore, industry giants such as Oracle with Application Express (APEX), Microsoft with the Power Platform, and Google with AppSheet have entered the market. In addition, many medium-sized and smaller providers such as Mendix, WEBCON, or smapOne are active, some of them also in the open-source domain.
cplace, as another player in the project management software market, is considered one of the ultimate platforms for Citizen Developers.
Citizen Development at Daimler Truck
Daimler Truck AG is one of the largest commercial vehicle manufacturers in the world. To lead sustainable transportation, several new products and propulsion technologies need to be developed and synchronized across the whole organization around the globe.
In this Video you will get insights on a Citizen Development project at one of the world’s largest commercial vehicle manufacturers and learn about the success factors that contributed to this development.