Citizen Developer – A Resource That Is Already Ready For Use!
Low-code tools have given companies more opportunities to develop new products and services quickly because they put their programming in the hands of citizen developers. But where exactly do Citizen Developer come from?
“Citizen developers are usually technology-loving employees in companies who have no formal technical function in the organizational chart but have been involved in the design of business processes and services for years,” says Gregg Aldana, Global Senior Director of Creator Workflows at ServiceNow.
“With the help of low-code tools, they drag-and-drop new applications without writing a line of code, thus constantly contributing to the development of new solutions.”
There are employees like her in practically every company. “It’s not a new role,” Aldana affirmed. “Citizen developer” is just a new term to describe an activity that has always existed.
Gregg Aldana has worked in pro-code and low-code development for years and used early versions of cloud-based low-code solutions for Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation before joining ServiceNow in 2017.
He is helping companies understand how low-code technologies can be used more efficiently and effectively in day-to-day business.
In an interview, Gregg Aldana talked about moving application development to the forefront and who should get their hands on these new low-code development tools so organizations can get the most out of them.
Who are the Citizen Developers using these tools?
They are people who are traditionally not involved in IT. They work in lines of business like marketing and sales, or as a business analyst, or they can do amazing things with spreadsheets and write macros.
You have always tried to find better ways to act in the company. Technology has now advanced to the point where you no longer have to write a lot of code to develop a custom application. Tools like ServiceNow’s Creator Workflows develop very sophisticated and helpful business solutions.
I call them knowledge workers because they know their company’s business inside and out, and they love to shape it. For example, you look at a business process and think, “How can I automate that?” Now some technologies make those ideas and skills much more powerful.
Millennials and the younger generation grew up with these low-code tools. They don’t understand why they should turn to IT and ask them to develop something when using low-code tools, and they can develop and deploy their custom application in a matter of hours.
That seems to be a significant change for IT departments.
CIOs and IT executives have resigned themselves to this. The most progressive companies are proactively developing a low-code strategy to stay ahead of the movement and provide their citizen developers with powerful technologies that are manageable for them.
Over the next five years, 500 million new applications will have to be developed in each industry. You can’t hire enough professional developers to do this. If you don’t rely on Citizen Developer now, you will lose the competition. Companies that already had such a program did well during the pandemic last year. They were prepared for it.
Will this development make professional programmers redundant?
Every citizen developer or low-coder will eventually reach a point where they need the help of a professional developer. At some point, it has to deal with a complex integration or requires sophisticated and custom logic.
So it will never be the case that Citizen Developers take the lead and eliminate the need for professional IT application developers.
Also, the biggest fans and proponents of low-code technology are professional developers. You can work faster with it. You don’t have to write so much code anymore. They can devote their valuable time to complex tasks, which they need to write from scratch, rather than mundane things that can be done with low code.
Professional developers are also likely to be the greatest beneficiaries of low-code technologies. They love them and encourage them more than any other group in the company.
And when Citizen Developers run into a problem and have questions, they can say, “Oh, that’s very easy. It works like this.” It’s a very symbiotic relationship.
What is an excellent example of an organization where these tools have made an enormous difference?
All staff at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital were sent home last year, but they still had to submit and sign contracts. Technology was used to handle electronic signatures, but it turned out that electronic signatures were the least of the problem.
The more significant part was the forwarding of the contracts. Different contracts required different levels of approval and other workflows. There was no solution, and that slowed down the whole thing.
A hospital employee then developed a custom low-code app using ServiceNow’s App Engine to automate everything within three weeks. Then it was distributed to thousands of employees.
The citizen developer knew all the different work processes involved in forwarding contracts and signatures, was tech-savvy and had already played with the technology. This was a great example of a business-critical process quickly tackled by an ambitious citizen developer.