Citizen Developer: Application possibilities for more innovation
There is hardly any other area where the shortage of skilled workers is as noticeable as in IT. Well-trained staff are rare, but the demand is huge. On the one hand, this can lead to an overworked IT department, on the other to delays in implementing new developments. Perhaps even both.
However, current technical developments are making it possible more and more for unskilled people to participate in the development of applications or to do it completely independently.
The keyword here is no code and low code. This trend encompasses all applications that want to make it as easy as possible for users to build individual software solutions - without any programming knowledge at all - in other words, no code.
People who use No Code and Low Code in the company, but without being part of the IT department, are called Citizen Developers. They use the latest applications to develop software solutions that reflect the needs of the organisation. Citizen developers can thus make a significant contribution to relieving the IT and innovation burden of the company. We explain everything about the term, advantages and disadvantages and possible applications.
What is a Citizen Developer?
The term Citizen Developer can literally be translated as "citizen developer", but means much more an unskilled or non-specialist developer. So-called citizen developers indirectly support the IT department, but are part of another corporate department. The citizen developer is a persona, not a title or role.
Citizen Developers are characterised by very good technical knowledge and have often been involved with technical solutions outside of their work. However, they do not have a relevant IT degree or professional experience in this field.
For this purpose, a graphical user interface is often used, which allows apps, websites and much more to be created through simple operation. They often follow the modular principle. The programming is done in the background.
Citizen developers are crucial for the digital transformation and innovation of companies, as they can support and thus relieve the IT department. Especially departmental applications and specific software solutions can benefit from citizen developers. Development time is shortened and the department's processes and goals are understood.
If you not only want to know what a Citizen Developer is, but also want to implement automation yourself, then become one now! CITIZEN AUTOMATION DEVELOPER, by Wemakefuture.
A Citizen Developer supports the IT department
The IT department is already frequently affected by the shortage of skilled workers. A long backlog of orders is not uncommon. And new solutions are requested on a daily basis. Especially when a very specific solution is needed for specialist internal problems, Citizen Developers who come from the relevant department can provide great support.
Thus, there is a strong focus on subject-specific problems and the benefits of the application.
In addition, this partial outsourcing can increase the productivity of the IT and required solutions can be implemented more quickly. The IT department is there to help the Citizen Developers.
Citizen Developer & IT Compliance: A Dilemma?
Perhaps it has already crossed your mind, the thought "this can never comply with the applicable compliance regulations". This is precisely the objection that can often be used against the use of Citizen Developers. But there doesn't have to be a dilemma between Citizen Developer & IT compliance.
Rather, the involvement and support of the IT department is required. Good education and training as well as suitable frameworks for roles and rights help to establish citizen developers.
The connection of Citizen Developers to IT ensures direct support.
Of course, citizen developers must also be informed about the applicable regulations, documentation and standards. Compliance with these can be checked in projects by IT. In the medium term, training and joint, agile working can even help to integrate citizen developers into the IT department.
The audit of used application for support can additionally be carried out by a compliance officer.
The development environment is therefore provided by the IT department, and citizen developers can realise suitable solutions for their department within this environment. This also avoids shadow IT.
Advantages of using Citizen Developers
Reduced burden on the IT department
IT teams face increasing challenges as the number of applications grows and the need to keep current applications up to date increases. Citizen developer platforms relieve IT teams of the burden of programme development and allow them to focus on other tasks. An IT department that is not overwhelmed with requests can also keep an eye on the risks and benefits of Citizen Developers, such as the integrations and permissions an app needs to succeed.
Citizen Development enables a larger pool of employees to work together on software development. In this way, the need for IT specialists can be reduced selectively. In addition, the technical understanding of the team members is promoted.
Increased productivity and efficiency
Development with low code and no code applications is significantly faster than custom developments. This also means that necessary changes can be implemented quickly when requirements change. In addition, the IT department can hand over tasks and thus concentrate on the most important and urgent tasks.
Flexible adjustments without IT department
Rapid development and testing
Further development and motivation of staff
Disadvantages of using Citizen Developers
Constantly changing technology
Currently, a lot is changing in the area of low code and no code applications. These constant updates of applications and programmes require consistent training and retraining. Thus, assistance is needed so that citizen developers may eventually become software developers.
If the IT department is not involved in the process, the requirements for quality, security, documentation and compliance can deviate. That is why throughout the process, the involvement of IT professionals is an important factor in ensuring the quality and functionality of an application.
Governance challenges require guidelines
Examples of the successful use of Citizen Development - thanks to low code applications
Airtable for a user-friendly database
Databases can be both a curse and a blessing: often equipped with a wide range of functions, this can quickly lead to confusion. It is not uncommon for databases to be touched only by a few team members. Yet the information and data are often decisive for internal and cross-departmental processes.
For example, the master data of customers is important in many places: marketing, accounting, sales, administration and many more. Citizen developers can be particularly useful for databases. They often know exactly what data is needed, who needs access and where changes are necessary.
One application that supports this is Airtable. Airtable allows for large, complex and yet clearly structured databases. Airtable is easy to use and comes with very useful functions: forms or different views such as calendar, Gantt or Kanban views allow more overview and control.
For example, team members can enter new records via a special form without the risk of changing existing data. These can be viewed via personalised views, so that the relevant info is accessible to everyone.
Airtable does not require any programming at all. Perfect for the use of Citizen Developers.
Softr for a member login
Databases can be both a curse and a blessing: The possibilities for data entry, dependencies and calculations are almost endless. However, the operation and interface are often anything but intuitive. In addition, not everyone is supposed to see all the data, but only the data assigned to them.
A frontend can visualise and make available the existing data with a member login. One application that does just that is Softr. Softr is based on Airtable as a database and offers the possibility to create web pages and member areas through a simple drag-and-drop interface.
In this way, tables or databases with sensitive data can be made securely accessible. Different groups ensure that each person only sees what they are supposed to see. This makes it possible to distinguish between, for example, an admin, manager or user view.
Specific data entry into the database can also be done via secure forms. This way, data can be added flexibly, but no existing information can be changed or deleted.
Glide App for Employees Feedback
Feedback for one's own team and managers is often still a very rigid process: after fixed intervals, such as annually or semi-annually, a comprehensive catalogue of questions is worked through, discussions are held and development opportunities are pointed out. The realisation that feedback is better given at shorter intervals is not a new one.
In addition, the idea of 360° feedback is also gaining popularity. However, the hurdles can sometimes be big:
If different people are to give feedback, it can be a lengthy process. So it is important to keep the barriers as low as possible. This is where an app can help. One app that can help is GlideApps. It creates mobile apps based on GoogleSheets. In this way, the familiar functions of GoogleSheets can be used in the background, but the end users only see the data that is relevant to them on their smartphones.
Similar to Softr, a login is also possible for this. Standardised feedback can be given to people via forms and the evaluation of one's own feedback can be viewed. By using the smartphone, feedback can also be given quickly and easily.
Of course, this app does not replace personal interviews, but it can support the preparation. For example, a self-assessment can be compared with the feedback from the peer group and specifics can be addressed in the subsequent interview with the HR department.
The development of this app can be done by Citizen Developers from the HR department.
ActiveCampaign for automatic email newsletters in marketing
One example that has long since become the norm is automatic email newsletters in marketing. Especially in marketing, no code and low code have long been established. With the rise of email marketing, the need for easy-to-use software has also increased.
ActiveCampaign, for example, can be used to design and automate entire e-mail campaigns. Instead of coding emails in HTML, a visual builder is used here as well, which enables emails in the corporate design via drag and drop.
Conditions and standardised triggers also ensure that the right people receive emails at the right time. New customers can receive different mailings than interested visitors or long-term customers. Citizen developers in marketing can thus create campaigns quickly and flexibly.
Make for automated processes in distribution
Another area that can benefit significantly from Citizen Developers and is just starting to gain momentum is process automation. Digital processes should run independently, within departments, but also across departments. Two things are necessary for this:
Comprehensive knowledge of the processes
Cloud-based applications that have an interface
If both are given, automation platforms can help to automate the processes. One of these platforms is Make. Especially for sales, administrative and support work can be automated in order to spend more time for and with customers.
An exemplary process that does not require any programming can look something like this:
A customer contacts the company via a contact form on the website.
The enquiry and the relevant master data are automatically recorded in the CRM system.
The request is assigned to the responsible or available team member and they are informed via Teams or Slack.
This can answer the enquiry directly or arrange a telephone appointment.
The entire further customer journey is automatically updated via a status in the CRM and from the time of the enquiry, the customer goes through a sequence of emails that always inform her about the next steps.
So instead of searching for data, entering it manually or sending the same emails over and over again, the sales team can focus on the request itself and provide the customer with a timely and personalised experience. Such developments lend themselves particularly well to Citizen Developers, as sales processes are best understood and defined by internal people.
In summary, Citizen Developers can bring the following benefits:
Support for the software developers
No specific IT or programming knowledge necessary
Control, documentation, security and reliability requirements met through IT support
IT department supported by standardised environment
Further development and motivation of the Citizen Developers
Helpful to mitigate the IT skills shortage
Strong focus on subject-specific problems and benefits of the applications
Increased IT productivity
Faster implementation of ideas and solutions
Citizen development is predicted to grow in importance. Gartner recently predicted that by 2023 the number of citizen developers will be at least four times as large as the number of professional developers. However, this presupposes that this form of development is promoted and supported.
Used correctly, Citizen Developers can support IT, realise fast and specific solutions and even increase their own motivation and problem-solving skills. This requires help and support from the IT department to ensure that the highest standards of development and security are maintained.
In this way, Citizen Development, also thanks to the growing range of No Code and Low Code solutions, can help to increase innovation and productivity throughout the organisation.
Cloud Integration, iPaaS, SaaS, BPA… Ough, hard to keep track of all these terms. They are currently used frequently (and increasingly) in the context of automation, and it is sometimes difficult to make a clear distinction and distinction. We have already written blog posts on the terms iPaaS, SaaS and BPA, but we’ll take them up again here to make the difference.
But let’s start with cloud integration, because that’s the central umbrella term in which we embed all the other technologies in this blog post.
To illustrate these advantages, an example is suitable that we know well from our everyday work as an automation agency:
The central data to be used here is the data of a major customer. This can be the simplest information, such as the address. This address is required in numerous but completely different processes in the company: on the one hand, for correct invoicing in accounting. On the other hand, in the CRM system, where all the data of the large customer is also stored. But the address is also important in sales, for example, when employees go to the sales meeting on site.
Now the customer announces that the address of the company has changed after a move. This information will reach you by e-mail. There are now two options:
01. The e-mail is forwarded to all affected departments, accounting, sales, customer service, marketing… All persons open their corresponding program, CRM, accounting software, marketing tools (such as newsletter marketing) and change the data already stored there of the customer. This means that in multiple applications, different people do exactly the same thing: change one address. 02. But there is also an alternative: By connecting your applications, thus by integrizing them, the customer’s e-mail, or rather the information it contains about the address change, is automatically passed on to all affected applications: CRM, accounting, marketing, ERP. This does not require any clicks, because the cloud integration detects a trigger, i.e. address change, and thus automatically starts the process.
What sounds unimpressive in a single process becomes more effective when such a process occurs several times a day or weekly. Because there is a lot of data that is available in different applications and should always be correct. If these applications are cloud applications they are suitable for cloud integration.
But cloud integration doesn’t just happen. There are now a variety of applications that enable and implement this. Such tools usually allow us to link the relevant cloud applications on a central platform and define clear rules on when, how, where, how much data should be passed on and what happens to them.
IPaaS, SaaS, BPA, ABC – who can still see through it?
To realize cloud integration, there are various applications and technologies that are sometimes used interchangeably.
Cloud integration cannot be done without SaaS, iPaaS and BPA
Cloud integration is rather an umbrella term that includes numerous technologies, such as SaaS, iPaaS and BPA, and this is also absolutely necessary. Cloud integration is a concept that is made possible by appropriate technologies.
However, all terms share the commonality that they are cloud-based and thus offer enormous potential for growth and scaling. In addition, they are often cheaper to implement and maintain because changed requirements are easy to implement.
As an independent automation agency, we implement cloud integration according to your requirements. We use a variety of SaaS tools and iPaas (strictly speaking BPA) software. Together we find individual solutions that are flexible and scalable.