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The Importance of Citizen Development and Citizen IT

By Jason Wong | October 10, 2019 | 1 Comment

Leading the Next-Generation Workforcecitizen developmentApplication Development and PlatformsApplication and Product Portfolio GovernanceDigital Workplace ApplicationsDigital Workplace Program

Business-led IT differs from shadow IT in two vitally important ways. Business-led IT is open and transparent from start to finish, whereas shadow IT is hidden and under the radar for all or part of its life cycle. Secondly, business-led IT is usually much more of a collaborative effort between business and IT where appropriate standards and policies are applied. Gartner has seen business-led IT practices taking place with growing frequency and increasing spend, which, based on a recent Gartner survey, is about 36% of the IT budgetBusiness units are also increasingly controlling their own application development efforts, of which citizen development will play a crucial role in the future of apps. Application leaders need to help define, guide and optimize citizen development to maximize mutual benefits for business and IT (see “The Future of Apps Must Include Citizen Development“).

Anyone Can Be A Developer

In a Gartner survey on business unit IT, 46% of respondents stated that increase for business-led IT spend was due to increased development of software, applications or databases. In another Gartner survey on citizen development, 41% of respondents have active citizen development initiatives and 20% of those that don’t are either evaluating or plan to start citizen development initiatives.
Application leaders cannot ignore or block business-unit-led IT and particularly citizen development. Doing so will further diminish the value of the IT organization in the eyes of the business. In fact, the modern digital workplace requires cultivating citizen IT in order to maximize digital dexterity (see Maximize Digital Dexterity by Cultivating Citizen IT).
In today’s world of SaaS, cloud and low-code and “no-code” tools, everyone can be a developer (see Figure 1). The number of professional developers, whether in enterprise IT or business units, is far smaller than the potential number of citizen developers. Ideal targets are the power users of business applications, such as an application administrator, but virtually any end-user can be a citizen developer given the right situation and enablement. As a result, the number of active citizen developers will be many times that of professional developers; therefore, application leaders must involve citizen development as part of their future of apps strategy.

citizen development

Gartner offers a framework to use with the business to define citizen development safe zones and best practices to support citizen developer tools and the apps they build. Please schedule a call with me and if your organization is trying to get a handle on citizen development, or if your company provides low-code development tools for citizen development.

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  • Hi Jason, I like the article and look forward to reading your future stories. We utilize a platform called CitizenDeveloper to provide rapid application development services, so naturally I interested in your article.