How to Reduce the Amount of Non-Code Tasks Done by Your Developer

Developers in IT operate under heavy workloads that often involve far more than coding. In fact, the non-coding tasks can eat up more of a developer’s day than the coding itself.

In this blog post, we learn what non-code tasks developers are performing and explore what options exist to help reduce the workload burden on developers.

Non-coding tasks routinely performed by developers

Several of the tasks performed by developers are actually not essential to their jobs as coders. Paul Krill, Editor at InfoWorld, says that,

“Software engineers spend more time on administration and other tasks than they do on actual application design and coding,” in reference to a 2013 survey conducted by Electric Cloud (see “Software engineers spend lots of time not building software“, InfoWorld, April 2013).

The same is true for app developers, who may spend a substantial part of their time performing tasks such as:

  • Training end users
  • Writing documentation
  • Gathering app and software requirements
  • Creating launch plans
  • Development environment management
  • Research solutions and/or tools for a project
  • Writing functional specifications

All in all, the typical developer spends a little over half of the average work week performing non-coding tasks, according to Phil Johnson, a former software developer and project manager.

While cutting down of some of these tasks may be possible, others require the extensive technical knowledge developers have, such as writing documentation for the code they have written.

In fact, most of these tasks rely to some degree upon the knowledge and skills of the developer.

This creates a bit of a problem. If we can’t realistically re-assign most of these tasks to other employees, then what can be done to ease the burden on developers?

Businesses need to look at other options for creating apps

Rapid Mobile Application Development (RMAD) platforms have revolutionized how organizations create apps. Their success has been proven in businesses where RMAD platforms are being used to quickly build apps that solve business problems.

While some CIOs and IT managers call this ‘shadow IT’, the fact is that the need for mobile apps are far outpacing the ability of developers to produce them. To fill the gap between business goals and slow IT development cycles, citizen developers began building their own apps and have found those apps are working quite well.

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The huge role of citizen developers in the future of mobile apps

IT has often frowned upon citizen development taking a dim view because, in the past, citizen-developed apps and tools often failed to meet minimum business requirements.

IT is slowly changing its attitude, however, as they have become aware that citizen developers are effectively removing a huge burden from IT shoulders.

Citizen developers are an ideal fit for creating apps. They work directly with customer data and have a deep understanding of the target audience.

They are constantly on the lookout for business problems that can be solved with an app, and can quickly create business solutions in timeframes far shorter than the two-month minimum most IT development teams require.

“The future of work is more automated and nimble, and companies (software and otherwise) that embrace new trends like citizen development will see gains in time, costs and efficiencies.”

John Carione, Product and Industry Marketing Leader for QuickBase, SD Times, “Report: Citizen developers are more important than ever“, October 2016

In the QuickBase Citizen Development Report 2016, it’s stated that, citizen development reduced app backlogs by 65%, and that, in 53% of organizations, citizen developers were building applications in less than two weeks.

Citizen developers may have proved that they can build great apps on RMAD platforms, but they are still limited in what they can accomplish.

When an app needs integration, they still have to turn to developers to write the custom integration code. Furthermore, they may still need guidance and input from IT when it comes to security and other app issues.

Developers need to focus on what they are best at

IT managers need to begin to find ways to tightly focus the developers they have on what they are best at: coding the back end. The faster IT can let line of business take over management of mobile apps, the happier developers will be.

Mobile app development is quite complex and requires its own specialized skillsets.

Front end development is often difficult for developers because they are not very familiar with HTML and CSS, let alone the idiosyncrasies of the popular browsers. Each requires special accommodation to render web pages consistently across devices.

Finally, mobile apps often have to be built for specific phone models and operating systems, adding yet another layer of complexity to mobile app development. At the end of the day, mobile app development requires specialized skillsets that have little overlap with the skillsets of developers.

What are developers good at?

Writing custom, high-quality code that citizen developers can’t.

By turning mobile apps over to citizen developers, developers can focus on their main concerns including security, governance, and compliance. Freed from the burden of developing mobile apps, developers can focus on integrating those concerns into apps instead of developing the entire app from scratch.

How IT managers and developers feel about the changes in enterprise mobile app development

Some IT managers are feeling a deep sense of relief, letting citizen developers handle mobile app development. Developers are generally most comfortable working on the backend of business systems and apps.

Citizen developers have stepped in to fill the gap between business needs and IT project backlogs, to successfully build apps on platforms designed specifically for mobile development.

This has sparked a re-thinking of who should be responsible for mobile app development in an organization.

The movement toward line of business departments assuming full control of mobile apps has elicited mixed feelings from IT professionals. In many cases, IT still has full control over the back end of those apps, but skepticism prevails about non-technical professionals possessing the knowledge and skills necessary for effectively managing their own apps.

Perhaps, in practice, IT will eventually become more of a source of technical skill and guidance when citizen developers need a little help, allowing both to continue doing what they are best at.

The future of mobile app development

RMAD platforms are reaching maturity, with some even offering custom integration services to provide a genuine, no-code platform for citizen developers, such as Fliplet.

Jason Wong, Research Director, Mobile App Design & Development for Gartner, predicts that,

“by 2020, 70 percent of mobile app development will be without the involvement of IT.”

The implications are huge for IT departments.

The time freed up will allow IT professionals to perform infrastructure and system maintenance much more efficiently, performing upgrades to hardware and software in a timely manner that simply wasn’t possible before. Some developers may worry that their jobs might be at risk, but given the demand for skilled developers, this isn’t likely.

If anything, the value of highly skilled developers will continue to grow, and alongside the citizen developers using RMAD platforms (like Fliplet!) they will be able to focus on what they do best.