Home|Nintex Process Platform|Automation Cloud|Learn|What is citizen development?

What is citizen development?

Digital transformation affects everyone in an organization. That’s how it should be, of course; buy-in from the highest-level decision-makers down to individual departments is essential for an effective, strategic transition. Citizen development supports that transformation by equipping workers with the skills needed to build and automate processes on their own.

What is citizen development? It’s an approach to ongoing education that empowers non-IT workers to become software developers themselves. Imagine a workplace where every team member has basic software development skills. Sounds improbable – or at least, it did before low-code/no-code platforms arrived on the scene and started empowering businesses with easy-to-use software process automation tools.

What does a citizen developer do?

Citizen developers don’t do everything software professionals do. (Or else, they’d be software developers themselves.) After undergoing citizen development programs, they work with tools approved by your IT department to build applications, automate business processes, and perform other basic tasks. Low-code/no-code platforms make it possible with easily navigable user interfaces.

What is low-code automation? It’s a kind of process automation designed to lower the cost of entry for non-software developers. Many low-code tools rely on simple logic and drag-and-drop tools that non-IT-savvy workers can quickly and easily grasp. Platforms based on this kind of automation empower citizen developers to build applications and take their share of ownership in a business’s digital transformation.

Citizen developers vs professional developers

Ask any software developer about their workload. The answer may take all day – or maybe even months. It’s a common story in IT departments: developers pushing off tasks for weeks on end to address high-priority projects. Their highly specialized knowledge and skillset uniquely equip them to solve complex problems and develop solutions that require a deep understanding of code.

Citizen developers, on the other hand, are ordinary workers who rise to the challenge of supporting the organization with simpler technology solutions. They rarely have formal software development skills, and their understanding of code and security may be limited, but they’re comfortable using low-code/no-code automation platforms to build their own apps for coworkers or departments – especially while the professional developers are busy elsewhere.

Benefits of citizen developers


They say two heads are better than one. Now imagine an entire department of workers using process automation software to solve problems around your organization. With so many easy-to-use tools at their fingertips, citizen developers can dramatically impact innovative, creative thinking around businesses. They can take on process management tasks, improve ways of working, and support their fellow workers with basic application development skills.


Having pros work on problems citizen devs could handle is a waste of time and resources. Not only that, training a professional software developer is a lot more expensive than training a citizen developer. Citizen devs generally aren’t trained at all: they’re self-taught, or the low-code/no-code tools they’re using are easy enough to understand that anyone can use them. This makes them perfect for improving internal workflows and solving process inefficiencies.

Reduce IT demand

How much could your business’s developers get done if not for their ever-growing project backlog? In the past, creating business applications was a job for professional software developers only. Today, in a world where digital transformation is happening all the time, almost any citizen developer can step up to create basic applications using widely available, easy-to-grasp tools. The result: pro developers are free to focus on the most complex, impactful tasks.

The rise of citizen developers

Citizen developers are appearing in businesses all over the world, across industries and departments, bringing the good news of low-code/no-code process automation along with them. Gartner reports that over 60% of companies have (or are planning) citizen development initiatives. It’s easy to see how major a role these everyman devs play in digital transformation, especially when you look at professional developers’ daily workloads. The cavalry has arrived!

Professional developers have a lot on their plates. Not only do they spend a great deal of time and energy learning their trade, earning new certifications, and staying abreast of the latest tech and security trends, they also tackle a huge range of IT problems in organizations every day. No wonder time is at a premium for these juggernauts of code – their skills are highly valuable, which makes it all the more important for businesses to use them wisely.

If there’s a photo of your business next to the word “backlog” in the dictionary, you’re not alone. And you’ve probably already realized what thousands of other organizations have realized: hiring more developers isn’t the solution. It’s time-consuming, expensive, and difficult, especially in the midst of a developer shortage.

Instead, consider how you’re using the developers you have, and where their time is being spent. Is there a better way to put their unique skills to use for your business’s bottom line? With so many low-code/no-code automation tools available, it’s far more affordable – and more practical – to empower the workers you already have.

What is a citizen development platform?

Citizen development platforms are technology’s answer to the challenges your organization (and your hardworking developers) are facing. They come in all shapes and sizes, but share one common goal: empowering workers with no formal training in software development or coding with easy-to-use app development and process automation tools.

Many businesses introduce citizen development platforms in conjunction with reskill/up-skill programs. While these programs don’t come anywhere near the rigorous training professional software developers undergo, they are valuable initiatives for any organization interested in joining the world of businesses that are benefiting from the citizen developer revolution – that is, cutting costs, increasing efficiency, gaining business momentum, and getting more value from each worker in each department.

Ready to get started? Learn how we’re empowering citizen developers all over the world with the Nintex Process Platform: a newcomer- and expert-friendly automation solution that embraces the low-code/no-code lifestyle to drive efficiency across all your processes (and people).