Accelerating Digital Transformation Through Citizen Development

accelerating digital transformation through citizen development

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.

Metso Drives Efficient Manufacturing Operations with Intuit QuickBase


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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  • QuickBase is as ubiquitous as Microsoft Office in our company. Our project managers are citizen developers that can modify their own project tracking apps without any IT consulting. QuickBase has saved us time and money, but most importantly, it has empowered our project mangers and their teams to work more efficiently.

    • StevenDuque

      That’s awesome, Rick — thanks for sharing how you and the Sigma team are living out citizen development in practice

  • Matt Sarver

    We are just scratching the surface of the potential with the citizen developers transformation at my company.

    • StevenDuque

      Thanks, Matt. We’ve really enjoyed learning more about how NCL has used QuickBase to spur digital transformation — and would love to hear more about how you’re starting to embrace citizen development.

  • Cindy Follis

    Good article

    • StevenDuque

      Thanks, Cindy!

  • edarmy

    Citizen developers are the key to putting power in the hands of the business (and out of the hands of IT)!

    • StevenDuque

      Thanks for the comment, which I think captures a lot of the sentiment that makes citizen development so relevant.

      However, from our perspective, citizen development doesn’t necessarily mean taking power out of the hands of IT; rather, it’s a way that IT and the Business can work together and align over app development in a more productive way.

      IT can and often still are extremely important parts of the app development process — especially when it comes to architecture, governance and controls to reduce risk. Under this model, IT can give the business the tools it needs to move fast and keep up with the market, while holding on to the master key.

  • Mohit Chawla

    Good one, nice read

    • StevenDuque

      Thanks, Mohit!

  • Lizzie10 Hill

    Nice info, good to see that we all agree QB is not just for IT by any stretch of the imagination.
    From a reader perspective – we aren’t all young people with good eyesight. The pale(r) gray text of the report is really, really hard to read. Harsh black and white is also challenging; whatever this blog is using is a nice compromise. Don’t know if that’s a QB thing or a hubspot-specific feature, but it is something that app and web and report designers across the board need to consider. We can’t use the apps and such if we can’t see them.

    • StevenDuque

      Thanks for the feedback on the design/formatting, Lizzie. It’s well-received, and we’ll keep that in mind as we gather and present other information!

      Separately, I think we’re all in agreement that QB isn’t just for IT, although we do know that some of the best results we’ve seen involve a true partnership between the lines of business and IT through QuickBase. There certainly isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach for every business, and how you approach QuickBase in your organization is going to depend on the realities that you know better than anyone else!

  • bigrobstunner

    love that the employees are now empowered to handle their own IT solutions and help ease the bottlenecks in the IT Depts. Big Win!!

    • StevenDuque

      Absolutely. “Self-service IT” — where employees in the business are empowered to tackle some aspect of their technological problems themselves — seems like it benefits both the Business and IT. IT has more free time to focus on more mission critical, strategic initiatives, while the business has shorter queue times.

  • Tina

    Citizen developers keep us on track.

    • StevenDuque

      That’s awesome to hear, Tina! It seems like we’re hearing that a lot from our customers. It’s been humbling to hear about the incredible impact citizen developers have had in their organizations using QuickBase — and how it helps contribute to the culture of problem-solving already present in most cases.

  • John Leuver

    This seems perfect.

    • StevenDuque

      Thanks, John — I really appreciate that.

  • Dinesh Vijayakumar

    QuickBase provides a good platform of low-code development with less reduced development time to build ready-to-use apps. Reporting capability enables the end user to create their own reports with different report/chart options without the help of IT support team

  • Dove

    Yes, QB allows non IT people to shine

    • StevenDuque

      Thanks for the feedback, Dove — we certainly agree! Interestingly, I think QuickBase also allows IT people to shine as well! Everyone can win.

  • Brendon S

    good article

    • StevenDuque

      Thanks, Brendon!

  • Dan Richard

    There is a balance between developing useful mechanisms to improve work performance and actually performing the work itself. Unless developing those mechanisms is your work….right.

    • StevenDuque

      That’s an interesting distinction, Richard — and I think an important one. One of the things that we believe makes citizen developers so effective is, oftentimes, how close to the actual business pain — or, as you called it, “actually performing the work itself.” What we’re seeing in the market is greater alignment between the Business and IT as a result of how roles in both organizations are changing. Increasingly, folks in the lines of business are solving their own problems through technology (in some cases, not on IT-sanctioned platforms), while simultaneously, progressive IT leaders are increasingly focused on a better understanding of the processes technology supports, which is one of the fundamental components of “Lean IT.”

  • Joe Scola

    “If you can say you can do it with QuickBase.” I’m not sure who said it first but I’ve yet to come across an operational process that we couldn’t implement or improve by using QuickBase!

    • StevenDuque

      That’s awesome to hear, Joe — thanks for sharing the positive feedback! We at QuickBase certainly believe in the power of the platform, and also believe that its no-code expressiveness — or “if you can say it, you can do it with QuickBase,” as you say — is one of our greatest differentiators and strengths among citizen developers.

  • Doug M

    Interesting, it looks like Desktop publishing tools are a gateway drug into development.

    • StevenDuque

      It certainly does, doesn’t it? I think another way of thinking about it is that understanding office productivity tools (or “desktop publishing tools”, as you called them) are a function of being close to business pains and having to deal with business processes. Effective citizen developers are often folks who are close to the business pain and who understand business process.

  • Steven Smith

    QuickBase allows us to expand business greatly without expanding workload. So much can get done now that we are off of paper files going back and forth between deaprtments.

    • StevenDuque

      Thanks for sharing, Steven. It’s great to hear that QuickBase has enabled your business to do more, faster — and to accelerate digital transformation of previously paper-heavy processes. Awesome stuff!

  • Ms. C

    Great article. I am part of the 37% that knows some HTML etc. Building applications in QuickBase has lit the fire in me to get learn programming, something I never considered. I want to add “Citizen Developer” to my LinkedIn!

    Citizen Development

    • StevenDuque

      Thanks, Ms. C — that’s great to hear! All that said — you don’t necessarily need to learn how to program to create apps in QuickBase. The most important thing is that you need to understand how your organization’s business processes work. If you have a good sense of how databases work and how to structure data, you’ll be well on your way to creating a powerful app using little to no code!

  • ABCole07

    Citizen development has been a key part about why I continue to use Quickbase. Quickbase has allowed me to tackle my business challenges myself rather than relying on IT departments or outside vendors to solve them for me.

  • Hitesh M

    A lot can be done even though you are not a developer.

    • Hitesh M

      Just left a comment here. “A lot can be done even though you are not a developer”

  • Rama Mohtadi

    Since it’s so easy to use, it’s great to give the people who directly interact with the product the power to customize it to their specific needs

  • Cyril Cohen

    We could not live without QuickBase. It’s a mission critical application for us. It has allowed to adopt to the needs for our company so fast and so easily.

  • ashtonportals

    great article.

  • Joe Lichtefeld

    We have used QuickBase for years and find it very easy to modify quickly to meet our business needs. the platform is very flexible.

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