Why IT Should Embrace Citizen Developers Creating Enterprise Mobile Apps

The explosive growth of mobile has meant that the demand for enterprise mobile apps has outstripped supply. Mobile app development requires a specialized skillset that IT often lacks, leaving development teams to struggle with mobile app development.

What does this result in?

  • Poor quality apps
  • Resources wasted on the hours spent during creation
  • Apps that are difficult to maintain

So, is there a solution to this problem? Is it possible to meet the increased demand for enterprise mobile apps without sacrificing quality or draining already stretched resources?

Well, thanks to DIY app building platforms like Fliplet, it is now possible for line of business professionals to create high-quality, reliable, and engaging mobile apps for their organizations and clients. What’s more, they don’t need any technical skills.

But who are the faces behind these no/low-code apps?

The Citizen Developer

Citizen developers have begun to meet the demands of organizations seeking more enterprise applications by building apps with little or no background at all in computer science or software development.

The original citizen developers were business users who created enterprise solutions using tools such as Microsoft Excel spreadsheets and Access databases.

They created macros that gathered data from the spreadsheets and stored it in an Access database. Some even created small applications using software such as Microsoft’s Visual Basic.

Today, the citizen developer is usually a line of business professional who solves business problems by building mobile app solutions.

What are the characteristics of a typical citizen developer?

Citizen developers tend to be skilled computer users with no formal education or training in software development. 34 percent are managers or supervisors who are self-described problem-solvers, according to this FileMaker report.

Many also consider themselves to be hard-working, creative, and organized.

In this post, George Hulme, an internationally recognized information security and business technology writer, says that,

“Eighty-two percent of citizen developers said they witnessed a reduction in inefficient tasks, 71 percent reported an increase in team productivity, and 60 percent said their apps helped to reduce data entry.”

These are impressive results for anyone without a software development background.

What motivates the citizen developer?

Citizen developers are aware that they could be much more productive with the right kinds of tools.

“They don’t want to wait for IT departments to get around to writing or producing software for them, so they decide to do it themselves,” says Ian Finley, an analyst at Gartner.

Finley also says that most of these citizen developers are younger and grew up using computers in school while dabbling in content management platforms such as WordPress.

What can citizen developers accomplish?

Citizen developers are capable of using platforms like Fliplet to create fairly advanced mobile apps that may be used within a department or throughout the entire organization. All they need is a little know-how or practice with the platform.

According to this report by Outsystems, about 47 percent of apps to  built in 2017 will be for reporting and analytics, followed by process automation apps at about 42 percent. All of these app types are among the apps most frequently developed by citizen developers.

What are the limitations of citizen developers?

Citizen developers lack the knowledge and skills necessary to design and build bespoke apps that require coding skills. Even though they may not know anything about computer science, software development, or the app pipeline, they can accomplish a lot with the right Rapid Mobile App Development (RMAD) platform.

Citizen Developer Ftd

How do citizen developers benefit an enterprise?

Citizen developers can identify a business need and quickly create a mobile app that meets that need. This provides a low-cost, efficient alternative to IT development teams and their app backlogs.

Innovation for certain types of apps can be driven by citizen developers, taking some of the burden off from IT development teams. The apps built using an RMAD platform can be fairly sophisticated, such as CRM apps that integrate with Salesforce or an HR app that helps manage employee performance.

How can I identify citizen developers in my enterprise?

Citizen developers love technology and love to talk about it. They also tend to be the ‘go-to’ people for a wide variety of lower-level technical issues, such as:

  • a mouse not working on a workstation
  • another employee’s phone freezing up
  • showing someone how to write a simple macro that sums up only the green cells in a spreadsheet column.

As suggested, citizen developers quickly create mobile apps without any software background using RMAD platforms. There are two basic types of RMAD platforms: low-code and no-code.

Low-code RMAD platforms require that mobile apps be manually integrated into other software, systems, and backends.

No-code RMAD platforms, on the other hand, require zero coding. Integration is performed with drag & drop components that are automatically integrated into the app.

To see what kind of apps you can create with Fliplet, check out our App Gallery.

Why IT Departments Should Embrace Citizen Developers

IT departments deal with multiple challenges when it comes to mobile app development, including:

  • Tight budgets
  • Competing priorities
  • Skills gaps
  • Excessive development times
  • App backlogs

It is against this backdrop that mobile requirements continue to grow. According to the same report,

“Mobility was the most common business requirement for apps, up from sixth place in our 2015 survey…88 percent of survey respondents noted that it was either a requirement or very important to incorporate mobile functionality into their current and future applications.”

By embracing citizen developers, IT can relieve some of its burden by allowing citizen developers to build apps. This would free up IT to focus on other priorities while reducing its backlog of apps that need to be developed.

The rapidly growing demand for mobile apps will continue

The growth in demand for mobile apps is nowhere near its peak. The same report states that,

“…nearly half (44 percent) [of IT professionals] indicated they will be developing more than 10 apps and 9 percent expect to deliver over 50 of them.”

IT departments would do well to tap the shoulders of citizen developers to take on development of mobile apps using approved RMAD platforms.

Benefits of IT embracing the rise of citizen development

Reduce development time and app backlog

Citizen developers quickly create mobile solutions using IT-sanctioned RMAD platforms. By allowing citizen developers to create apps, IT app backlog is reduced and the app is developed in a fraction of the time traditional app development takes.

This eases the burden on IT, freeing up time that can be devoted to large or complex projects that are beyond the capabilities of citizen developers.

Ingenious, elegant solutions

Some of the most creative, beautiful solutions come from those who have no background in software design and development. The same is true for citizen developers — without the burden of the knowledge of software design and development, they are able to see solutions that the IT development team would never think of because they are professional developers, not business users.

RMAD platforms provide easy integration

Perhaps the best feature of RMAD platforms are their drag & drop integrations for popular software products including CRM, databases, and data feeds.

Citizen developers don’t need to know anything about integrating an app in order to do it; all they need to do is select the correct components to integrate and the RMAD platform does it automatically. This saves IT the tremendous amount of time spent on mobile app integration.

How Can IT Fully Empower Citizen Developers?

The citizen developer will be most effective creating mobile apps with an IT-sanctioned RMAD platform that they can use to build mobile apps that effectively meet business needs and resolve business problems.

IT departments may also need to recognize that, even though citizen developers are not skilled in coding, they are making a valuable contribution to the organization’s success with the mobile apps they build.

IT needs to include citizen developers in discussions about business needs and problems that might be resolved through the development of mobile apps. Listen to their ideas and give them as much consideration as if they were coming from within the IT department itself.

Citizen developers are the next wave of mobile app development

Mobile growth will continue to skyrocket, and so will business demand for mobile applications. Businesses are already embracing citizen developers — Gartner research predicts that, by 2020, at least 70 percent of businesses will have citizen development policies.

Trends such as Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and the consumerization of IT will continue to drive mobile app growth, with citizen developers creating enterprise solutions that range from simple process automation apps to company-wide analytics apps and more.

As RMAD platforms improve, so will the skills of the citizen developers using them to create even better mobile apps for business. You can sign up for a free demo of Fliplet today