April 12, 2024

Innovation & Tech Today


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With Citizen Developers on the Rise, Who is Responsible for Tech Success?

By Dinesh Varadharajan, CPO, Kissflow 

The way businesses create software is changing. In this rapid era of digital transformation and with access to no-code and low-code tools, business leaders are becoming empowered to develop new applications tailored to their specific needs. Low-code is also opening the door to increased collaboration, which has traditionally been a major stumbling block in advancing digital transformation efforts. 

Likewise, a lack of skills has also been a bottleneck for digital transformation. Labor market fluctuations have created a new gap between the supply of and demand for skilled developer talent. With a growing need for application development coupled with an ongoing supply/demand imbalance for developer resources, no-code and low-code tools provide much more than a provisional solution. 

The collision of these two trends will fundamentally change the relationship between business and IT organizations in modern enterprises. According to recent research from Gartner, citizen developers will outnumber professional developers 4-to-1 by 2023. As business employees become empowered to fuel their organizations’ innovation by taking on projects previously only relegated to their IT colleagues, how can these two employee bases work together — or even get along?  

Moments of transition like this carry the potential for friction and conflict. Will IT leaders be prepared for their untrained colleagues to make changes to the tech stack? Will business leaders chafe against the controls put in place by tech executives?

Citizen developers and IT professionals can work in tandem to modernize operations and create new efficiencies in business processes. The key is to clearly define each group’s roles and responsibilities, putting everyone in the organization on track to meet a set of shared goals. 

Citizen Developers: Controlled Creativity

Necessity is the mother of invention: in business, those who are closest to a problem are most likely to come up with a solution. And while citizen developers may not have the same skill level or experience as their IT colleagues, they are far more intimately acquainted with the headaches and challenges they face on a daily basis. As organizations separate responsibilities between business employees and IT pros, the goal should be to provide citizen developers with channels and opportunities to build creative solutions to their everyday problems.

Citizen developers can make a tangible difference on process optimization by delivering consistent refinements. As these business employees recognize opportunities for improvement, they can develop applications using no-code or low-code platforms to automate or simplify tedious tasks. Over time, these refinements deliver significant value by improving functional flows and increasing the output of each individual employee.

IT Professionals: Next-Level Initiatives

An IT employee may bristle at first at the idea of a business employee building a new software solution. Over time, however, this approach allows IT professionals to shift their focus from everyday process improvements toward complicated technical initiatives that can make a bigger impact on business goals. This change in approach will prove rewarding as enterprises will gain from employee populations that can contribute to ongoing operational efficiencies.  

Certain technical advances can only be achieved by professionals. For example, new APIs can prove transformative for business initiatives while simultaneously providing citizen developers with new opportunities to build smaller applications. IT leaders must also take responsibility for cybersecurity, particularly as the efforts of citizen developers increase the overall surface area for a potential attack. 

Of course, IT professionals will also need to play a role in guiding and controlling the efforts of citizen developers. An effective system will provide business colleagues with the freedom to be creative while putting in place guardrails to protect the overall system. 

Shared responsibilities

The best IT infrastructure is a system of checks and balances in which citizens and professional developers can work together towards common goals. By defining these goals at the outset and identifying swim lanes for each team, the entire organization can remain focused on innovation and growth. 

In smaller organizations, this balance could be achieved by establishing an IT mentorship program — connecting citizen developers with their professional colleagues to foster growth. At larger enterprises, IT professionals could be responsible for larger training sessions or courses to help business employees make the most out of their low-code tools. 

With silos breaking down across enterprises, it’s clear that business and IT teams must find new ways to work together and prosper. Working in good faith towards common goals, with a healthy respect towards each other’s experiences and perspectives, can help any organization overcome economic pressures or recruitment challenges. From senior developers to new business hires, everyone has a role to play in enterprise innovation.

By I&T Today

By I&T Today

Innovation & Tech Today features a wide variety of writers on tech, science, business, sustainability, and culture. Have an idea? Send it to submit@innotechtoday.com

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