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Low Code and the ‘Citizen Developer’: Too Good to be True?

The idea behind low code technology is to turn us all into ‘citizen developers’.

The citizen developer can, in theory, use low code platforms to make their work run more smoothly and efficiently. These platforms are designed to empower knowledge workers to build their own customized solutions with low code or even no code, turning anyone (who can develop handy business apps) into a ‘citizen developer’.

The theory behind the citizen developer has been around for a while, yet it is only recently that a number of next generation low code platforms have emerged to make the argument that it is actually achievable.

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Using low code platforms, citizen developers are expected to:

  • Solve all sorts of business problems they would previously have ‘put up’ with
  • Save the IT department time so it can work on bigger projects
  • Boost efficiency
  • Standardize previously ‘hacked together’ solutions

The market is full of a growing breed of new app development platforms where powerful business applications can be developed without having to write a single line of code.

Even if minimal code is required to go the last mile, these platforms make it easy to collaborate with developers to leverage external services through open standards like REST, Swagger, JSON and OAuth.

This all sounds great but…is citizen development really realistic?

A Brief History Lesson

 As a term ‘citizen developer’ is widely attributed to industry analyst firm Gartner who coined it. The concept has been around for years and has popped up from time to time, but it hasn’t ever truly materialized.

Does this mean that the concept of ‘citizen developer’ is all wrong? Not necessarily.

We’d argue instead that we need a more realistic idea of the citizen developer. One that sees specific employees being ‘skilled up’ to have a decent working knowledge of low code tools, rather than the idea that everyone and anyone can be (or should even want to be!) a developer.

A More Realistic View

If organizations choose to ignore the concept of the ‘citizen developer’ and the platforms that enable citizen development, they will miss out on a lot of potential for increasing efficiency across lines of business.

Low-code tools lie at the heart of digital transformation.

These tools are becoming more widely available and make it possible for knowledge workers to build helpful workarounds and to get tasks completed faster. Workers can spend less time on repetitive tasks and feel less frustrated by the constraints of technology.

If someone encounters a problem s/he can quickly sort it out on his/her own without having to burden the IT department. This also means that in-house IT/developer teams save time and can spend their days working on more impactful or mission critical projects.

This isn’t to say that everyone in the business should be building apps or should even want to (as the idealistic ‘citizen developer’ concept would have it).

Instead, what we’re saying is that knowledge workers who understand what goes into building business applications, possess basic skills, and have proper training and support can leverage platforms like Nintex to easily automate and improve their everyday business processes.

In fact, we’re seeing this more as the next generation of workers are entering the workforce. This is a cohort that grew up with technology, who actively seek apps out that will improve their lives (both personal and professional).

The Road Today and Ahead

It’s no question that low code platforms and citizen development are changing how work gets done.

However, most organizations today are simply not at a stage where any business professional with “a problem” can just start building business applications to solve it.

An approach that we’ve seen succeed (time and again) with companies using platforms like Nintex involves starting with simple wins that generate rapid ROI. Like designing and deploying an automated employee onboarding process.

From here, we typically see ‘shepherds’ in the business who understand the value of Nintex, champion it, and start educating their peers about the business impact of automating processes.

These individuals—who could be business analysts, power users or administrators—may even end up starting their own centers of excellence. These are often informal groups; monthly meetings where anyone who’s inspired and interested in workflow automation can learn how technology can be applied in their own team.

In many cases, this small engagement can lead to literally 10s of thousands of workflows being deployed across the business.

So be ready: once your employees learn how to use Nintex it can be hard to stop!

 

Nintex makes it easy to build powerful and effective business applications. Spark your own citizen developer culture by contacting us about how we do it ourselves.

 

Ryan Duguid

Chief Evangelist Ryan Duguid is responsible for setting product and platform vision, driving continuous innovation, and delivering technology to help everyday people solve their process problems. Ryan joined Nintex from Microsoft, where he was responsible for the content management business in the SharePoint Product Group.
Follow him on Twitter @PvtRD