Beyond the Backlog: How Citizen Developers Can Help Close the App Gap

By Michael Nardone, National Senior Manager

On a recent Insight Live, Carm Taglienti, J. Broad, and I discussed how companies can enable citizen developers to positively impact their organization. Watch the webinar on demand to learn more.

What is a citizen developer and what value can they bring to my organization?

As our work becomes increasingly complex and requires a depth of engineering and IT capability, the smaller projects or low-code business needs can take a backseat to more pressing technical priorities. Rather than let these solutions fall by the wayside, organizations can empower non-engineer employees to fill the gaps in the right use cases.

Citizen developers are individuals who deeply understand the business’s needs and leverage that knowledge to build no- or low-code applications to meet those needs. These citizen developers can mitigate the risks of using valuable IT resources on smaller projects and allow those closest to the business needs to head innovative application development — effectively closing the elusive application (app) gap.

Demystifying and solving the app gap

Organizations have a limited amount of IT resources, which can lead to large and difficult-to-manage product backlogs with busy engineering teams. There is often a gap between what our engineers can realistically accomplish and the ever-growing requirements of our business. Outside of the direct effect on the product and user experience, this can often stifle innovation as those requirements and additive features go unaddressed. This is what is often referred to as the app gap — the friction created when finite resources meet our endless business needs.

What citizen developers can offer is a chance to close the app gap and bridge the divide between the business side of the organization and engineering teams. With a citizen development program, the specialists (engineers) can focus on large, complex projects, without sacrificing the value that low- and no-code applications can add. These strategic programs allow for all goals in an organization to be represented and met efficiently.

Tools for successful citizen development

Fortunately for organizations today, there are several robust low- to no-code development tools available that don’t require immense technical knowledge or training. Software like Google AppSheets, Amazon Honeycode, and Microsoft Power Apps each have easy-to-learn interfaces and are popular choices for citizen development projects. These are some of the best options that allow teams to make mobile or desktop apps, integrate with popular third-party software, and provide templates for getting started. Whether it is a chatbot, workflow automation, or data analysis, citizen developers can easily build rapid app solutions with no- or low-code software.

Setting up citizen development in your organization

The modern workforce will increasingly need the work of citizen developers to take businesses to the next level. Organizing your citizen development practice is the most important factor in ensuring its success. Some organizations have created programs with well-established governance and recruited individuals, while others have seen grassroots interest evolve into a formal group. A key aspect of citizen development is resources: Organizations that want to enable this type of work need to provide developers with the right tools, space, and support for innovation to flourish. Organizations should empower their low-code developers, while also providing the scaffolding they need to be successful and drive innovation.

Additionally, when undertaking a citizen developer program, there should be shared responsibility between the business and IT teams of the organization. These two groups should work in collaboration and with respect to each other’s areas of expertise. Bridging this gap may initially require some flexibility on both sides of the organization but investing the time to establish these processes will be immensely powerful in ensuring the program is successful long term.

What you need to get started

If you think your organization could benefit from a citizen developer program, a great place to start would be to identify innovative and forward-thinking employees with a deep understanding of your business and customer needs. As a core group of individuals emerges, ensure your organization can provide them the resources they need: low- to no-code software, space in their workflow to dedicate to citizen developer projects, and an open line of communication to your IT team. If you enable these developers with the right tools, empower them to act on their expertise, and nourish their innovation, you are well on your way to a successful program.

Fellow engineering leaders and I take a closer look at citizen development and the impact it can have on organizations in this webinar — watch it on demand to learn more.

Ready to get started?
Learn more about how Insight can help you bring a citizen development program to your organization through our Modern Workplace solutions.