Accelerating Digital Transformation Through Citizen Development

Oct 6, 2015
7 Min Read
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accelerating digital transformation through citizen development

Digital Transformation - Low-Code Rapid Application Development Platform - QuickBase

Leveraging citizen development can dramatically accelerate an organization's drive toward digital transformation by empowering and enabling problem-solvers in both the business and IT to create cloud apps—all without writing a single line of code. In QuickBase's inaugural 2015 State of Citizen Developer Reportwe provide insights from over 140 QuickBase customer survey responses from EMPOWER2015 into how the emergence of citizen developers in organizations marks a paradigm shift in how the Business and IT work together to build, customize and connect cloud apps to achieve their collective business goals.

But what exactly do we mean by digital transformation, and who are citizen developers? And, more importantly, what impact do they have on organizations?


What do we mean by "Digital Transformation"?

Organizations are reimagining and redesigning business processes – from the industrial age to the early Internet era – as a result of new technologies and their adoption among a growing number of businesses. From paper and snail mail to spreadsheets and email, organizations are finding new approaches to create structure around workflows and optimize processes with technology. As a result, every business is now a software business, from pizza chains to health care systems.

Cloud apps – and the platforms for building them – are increasingly leaned upon as drivers of digital transformation, with the ultimate aim of increasing operational efficiency, business agility, and employee productivity. In particular, as highlighted in our report, 76 percent of our survey respondents said operational efficiency is the primary reason that their organizations use low-code rapid development platforms like QuickBase for digital transformation. As a distant second, 13 percent of respondents said business agility was the primary reason, while only eight percent named employee productivity.

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What do we mean by "Citizen Development"?

In our view, citizen developers are empowered problem-solvers from the various lines of business who have the drive and determination to engage in app development, even though they lack traditional coding skills with popular programming languages. In our survey, 97 percent of citizen developers claimed that word processing and spreadsheet-related formula skills were the extent of their "technical" proficiency. Thirty-seven percent had front-end web interface skills (e.g., HTML, CSS and JavaScript), and only eight percent had any traditional coding skills with programming languages like Java, .NET, C++, Ruby and PHP.

Aside from skills (or lack thereof), citizen development is a function of a growing spirit of collaboration between business users and internal IT, who historically were once much less aligned, to say the least. Among our survey respondents, 68 percent built apps with someone outside their functional area in the organization.

With true low-code platforms for rapid application development, citizen developers are often self-serving their teams' and/or their own app requests—with IT's guidance as an expert partner in app architecture, governance and controls to reduce risk. In contrast to true low-code platforms, some supposedly low-code solutions merely provide easier ways and environments for existing coders to develop apps faster.


What does Citizen Development mean for Digital Transformation?

Citizen developers are using low-code rapid application development platforms to solve problems across myriad digital transformation use cases. At a high level, 65 percent of our survey respondents are leveraging citizen developers to create cloud apps built on low-code platforms that "Get Work Done" (e.g., HR, PMO, IT help desk, etc.). Interestingly, 42 percent of respondents are creating apps that "Run the Business" (e.g., ERP, website, etc.), while 27 percent are creating apps to help their organizations "Delight the Customer" (e.g., CRM, customer portals, mobile sites, etc.).

And citizen developers aren't just building one-off point solutions to solve their own problems; in many cases, they're building multiple apps as parts of connected ecosystems of apps to help solve problems across different functional groups. On average, our survey respondents said that eight point solutions were required to replace low-code platforms used by citizen developers. Needless to say, there's a compelling ROI case for leveraging low-code platforms that enable citizen developers.

Stay tuned for future posts on how citizen developers are impacting ROI and speed of application development and delivery, in addition to what IT governance looks like in a world with citizen developers. In the meantime, download our free report, and share your thoughts on citizen development in the comments below!

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