This post was originally published in May, 2016 and updated in August, 2020.
In simpler times, IT and business were separate departments within an organization. Business leaders focused on operations, sales, strategy, and management while IT leaders handled all tasks pertaining to technology.
What changed? Just about everything.
In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, digital transformation efforts have accelerated drastically, and executive priorities for IT now encompass the movement to cloud, digitizing manual processes, and enabling a remote workforce.
Business leaders outside of IT have realized that in order to stay competitive in an ever-evolving climate, supporting business agility, innovation, and operational efficiency from a technology perspective is imperative.
The role of the IT department has been elevated to a more strategic growth role, but now IT leaders face the brutal dilemma of enabling faster innovation while also mitigating risks and costs.
As businesses search for a way to manage digital transformation without exceeding IT’s functional bandwidth, low-code rapid application development programs like Quickbase emerge as a comprehensive and practical solution.
These low-code platforms enable citizen development, which is broadly defined as business users creating, integrating and iterating applications that surface important business insights and automate manual processes. And here’s the best part – low-code allows every businessperson with an idea to become a citizen developer, even without technical background.
The dynamics of today’s fast-paced global marketplace and the constant evolution of technology require that companies break out of their traditional silos and rethink how they do business within their business. And forward-thinking IT leaders have learned that loosening the technological reigns benefits them in many ways.
Here are three reasons why embracing citizen development is a strategic play for both your IT department and your business’s goals.
Historically, IT did everything from core app development to database design and administration to keeping everyone’s computers up and running. But now almost every business function is tied to a program or app—which must scale and evolve as the business changes.
As a result, most IT departments are inundated with endless requests for them to either debug old programs or create apps to address new needs. This puts IT in the position of creating solutions for specific processes and workflows that exist outside their scope of expertise—an approach that wastes time, energy, and resources.
One of the best ways to address an IT department’s backlog of requests is for IT leaders to encourage business leaders to get in the game.
Citizen development allows non-IT folks to become technological problem solvers. They can create, test, adapt, and deploy cloud-based apps to meet a specific function — all without writing a single line of code.
Citizen development does not diminish the need for the IT department — it just democratizes the development process. IT retains the ability to approve or disapprove apps, collaborate with the business user on the right levels of governance and control based on the type and size of application being used, or choose to build the first iteration and then hand it off to the line-of-business user for the last mile.
With the critical responsibility of leading digital transformation efforts across the organization, offloading non-priority tasks is a relevant topic for IT.
While some IT leaders fear that dispersing development capabilities will lead to a governance and security nightmare, low-code platforms like Quickbase allow IT to maintain robust administrative controls on citizen development in addition to a comprehensive security and regulatory compliance program that meets several industry standards.
This presents an opportunity to shift responsibility away from the IT department and into the hands of workers so that they can create solutions for themselves.
Citizen development elevates the role of IT. When they are freed from the demands of request backlogs, IT leaders can focus on what they do best: optimizing the company’s use of technology to stay agile and competitive while also creating controls to protect from internal and worldwide security threats.
Developing new programs from scratch is a time-consuming process that involves months of coding and testing, followed by on–going debugging. Few companies have the means to use such a costly process for every app in every department, especially when so many application development alternatives exist in the market.
The cost savings associated with citizen development cannot be overstated. Forrester Consulting affirmed this by conducting a study of one of the leading low-code rapid application development platforms, Quick Base. According to their study, organizations saved an average of eight weeks of development time per application using Quickbase. That’s a 60-85% reduction of time.
Forrester also reports the average organization saw a cost savings of $19,231 per new app. This cost savings enabled composite organizations to build 55 new apps a year, resulting in a three-year, risk-adjusted total cost savings over earlier methods of $2,538,462. This resulted in a ROI of 260%.
Those numbers speak for themselves and make it clear that citizen development, done right, is a win-win for both IT and line-of-business leadership.