Dawn of the Citizen Developer

Benjamin Babb
Dawn of Citizen Developer

Businesses need citizen developers, and many businesses needed them yesterday. 

That’s because we’ve reached an inflection point where the rate of technological change and the level of process sophistication have increased so much that conventional IT teams have neither the resources nor the bandwidth to solve every problem. As a result, businesses suffer because they cannot respond to market changes or competitor moves quickly enough. 

Put another way, sole reliance on the IT department is no longer a sufficient system for sustaining the kind of agility the current competitive landscape demands. 

Renewed sense of urgency

Although the concept of citizen developers isn’t new, we’ve seen a recent surge in interest for cultivating and empowering citizen developers in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hybrid and remote work models have decentralized and distributed teams and created new opportunities for process and workflow optimization. 

Businesses are realizing the potential of citizen developers for automating and simplifying tasks, improving workflows, and bringing automation into the business processes that add value to the enterprise while delivering quality products and consistent services with efficiency.

400%Number of citizen developers vs professional developers by 2023 (Gartner)
61%Organizations that have or plan to have active citizen development initiatives (Gartner)
41%Business solutions provided by those outside the IT team

Benefits to the enterprise are one factor driving the citizen developer movement, but they are not the only one. Citizen development is about something more important than revenues and value:  it’s about empowering team members to solve problems on their own and inviting them to take a greater share of ownership in their work. It’s about giving people the tools they need to think creatively about the challenges they face, and the opportunity to collaborate in order to deliver the right solutions for the obstacles they find.  

In the end, it’s a movement about making work better for people, by people.

A new model for solving the IT backlog

Traditionally, IT teams have focused on solving problems and improving workflows — from a big picture perspective — by focusing on the processes closest to the business core. What’s changed is that today, the majority of processes that require solutions and improvements take place further away from the business core, in what we refer to as the “satellite centers” of the business. 

These satellite centers are departments that are further removed from the IT team’s traditional realm, and the processes they are trying to perfect may fall outside the IT team’s bailiwick or bandwidth. These are the processes and problems that HR, marketing, finance, and customer success teams struggle with every day. 

It’s within these satellite centers of the business that we find what Forrester refers to as the  “long-tail” of requirements: all the possible improvements that never make it out of the IT queue. By their estimate, 50% of automation opportunities are never implemented. Individually, these long tail opportunities may seem inconsequential, but cumulatively, they can make the difference between success and failure. 

65%Of processes take place in satellite centers, away from the core of the business and outside the traditional domain of IT (Pipefy)
50%Automation opportunities that never see implementation (Forrester)

Citizen developers re/solve

Citizen developers help resolve the conflict between the ever-growing need for process improvements and solutions, and the IT team’s capacity. Citizen developers also bring much-needed insight into these processes and what they need to work well, since these are the people who know the tasks and workflows best.

Written by
Benjamin Babb
Enya devotee, ghost story aficionado, and skillet collector. Senior Writer at Pipefy.

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