When Writing Code Isn’t Enough

This is an article from DZone’s 2022 Low Code and No Code Trend Report.

For more:

Read the Report

What is citizen development? In this article, we define citizen development and dive into its impact on internal development practices and how software companies think about designing their developer experience.

IT: Fear Not a Citizen Developer Apocalypse

Citizen development is catching on like a retro-glam-pop track by rap queen Lizzo. And yes, citizen developers will outnumber professional coders at large enterprises by a margin of 4 to 1 by 2023, according to news reports. But that doesn’t mean a developer apocalypse is just around the corner.

For the record, a citizen developer is someone who uses no-code or low-code software to build apps for themselves or others in the organization. There’s nothing new about citizen development. It’s been on the scene for a while, something that often gets overlooked in the anxiety about citizen developers going rogue. But there are two forces propelling today’s citizen development explosion. One is the pandemic, which triggered exponential demand for remote work software and business process automation in pretty much every industry from manufacturing and retail to healthcare, financial services, and beyond.

The second factor is the rise of no-code and low-code development, which has empowered business users with little or no coding experience to build and modify business applications. The global market for this technology is expected to grow from $13 billion in 2020 to about $65 billion in 2027. In other words, there’s an undeniable shift underway toward democratized technology, which could unleash a new age of innovation.

This isn’t far-fetched. In fact, citizen developers could provide much-needed relief to already stressed-out developers trapped in the pressure cooker of IT backlogs that average anywhere from three to 12 months according to CIODIVE.

With IT departments overwhelmed by application demand, enterprise automation will likely continue to spill over into citizen development in 2022 and beyond. But there’s another gnarly conundrum posed by the automation inflection. The global shortage of software developers could surge from 40 million in 2020 to an eye-popping 85.2 million by 2030 — a trend that could drain over $8 trillion in unrealized revenue from the global economy according to Korn Ferry.

There’s a bit of bleakness in realizing that 87 percent of C-level execs believe their companies aren’t prepared to cope with the talent gap. But this is where citizen development comes in.

A Playbook for Merging Citizen and Software Development

But the relationship between citizen developers and IT has long been strained by fear and loathing of “shadow IT.” And so, if the rise of citizen development comes with this potential pitfall, how should business and IT leaders deal with it? As with politics, you could say all citizen development is local. This is also another way of saying department and business unit execs should probably familiarize themselves with best practices for adopting no-code and low-code development and scaling it across the enterprise.

Educating yourself on industry best practices and guidance for scaling your business can often be achieved through an automation “Center of Excellence” (CoE) to give citizen developers and professional developers a framework to adopt new technologies and methodologies, speed delivery of applications, improve governance , and reduce the risk of shadow IT.

A CoE could involve cross-functional teams that jointly research and license no- and low-code platforms, train citizen developers, review apps before they go live, and oversee app maintenance to keep a lid on technical debt.

There are three basic approaches to setting up an automation CoE. But the common denominator is a framework for minimizing the risk of shadow IT:

  1. Centralized – A single team coordinates, supports, and promotes development across the enterprise. With this model, it’s easier to enforce policies, processes, and standards locally but may be harder to keep development from going off the grid in distant parts of the organization. Good fit for small to mid-sized organizations.
  2. Decentralized – Supports structured collaboration between business unit advocates but creates duplication and higher automation costs.
  3. Federated – Business units undertake their own design, development, and delivery within guidelines established by an embedded CoE. This model enables easier enforcement of standards and gives business units more oversight, engagement, and control. Could be the best approach for large organizations.

Overcoming the Silo Problem

One of the drawbacks of citizen development is that it can get narrowed down in implementation. Mitigating this silo problem is difficult because the more you open the aperture of citizen development, the more organizational resistance you’re likely to encounter and the more complexity you’re bound to create.

“The key to solving conundrum problem,” says Sergey Trosman, Chief Technology Officer and Senior Vice President, Strategic Growth at ICF, a billion-dollar low-code implementation and digital services provider, “is having a diverse digital toolkit with corresponding methodology and implementation pillars that align with your organization’s business goals. In a digital toolkit, low code can serve as an agent of change by early wins and demonstrating the capacity to sustain digital transformation across the enterprise.”

“Technology is the easy part. The challenge is getting people engaged for change. And that’s about leadership…It’s about aligning the organization to a new visionary baseline and transformational change and technology just follow,” says Trosman.

Culturally speaking, the same is true of citizen development. It’s hard to evangelize and scale it without a framework for execution. Perhaps adopting an automation CoE is the differentiator.

Bringing Out the Fabulous in Enterprise Automation

The best citizen development has guardrails and governance because without quality control, systems engineering, or solution architecture behind it, citizen development could become a problem down the road. Hardly anyone outside of the tech industry is thinking about this conundrum, but that needs to change considering the fact that global spending on low-code development is expected to skyrocket from $14 billion in 2022 to $187 billion by the end of the decade. It’s also worth noting that spending on digital transformation overall is trending to surpass the $2 trillion mark by 2025. To paraphrase Lizzo: embracing citizen development isn’t a choice. It’s a decision that has to be made for business survival.

This is an article from DZone’s 2022 Low Code and No Code Trend Report.

For more:

Read the Report

.

Leave a Comment