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Unleash the force of Low-Code No-Code and empower your “Citizen Developers"

The answers you seek are within you...

Thanks to Low-Code No-Code, your organization’s business users (typically called “Citizen developers”) are now able to deliver solutions and experiences with minimal involvement from the technology organization. As organizations accelerate their digital transformation journey, enabling and empowering their employees, or citizens, will be the critical component to a successful transformation culture.

Citizen development and the race to digital innovation

Virtually every business today confronts a digital technology-fueled tsunami of disruption. Banks look to automation tools to eliminate paper from the loan application and approval process. Big data analytics offer retailers game-changing, real-time insight into consumer mindsets. With AI and Internet of Things-enabled smart devices, health care providers are taking diagnostics and patient care to the next level.

While the specific objectives and outcomes vary, the underlying imperative is to create new operational models and better ways of engaging with customers. Many established companies have seized the transformation opportunity, positioning themselves to run faster, cheaper, and smarter. The digital revolution has also spawned an entirely new breed of business organization, one with a DNA designed to thrive in a hypercompetitive digital environment.

Businesses that fail to adapt, meanwhile, risk becoming irrelevant or extinct. Indeed, the average lifespan of an S&P 500 corporation has shrunk dramatically—from 60 years in the 1950s, to less than 20 years by 2012.1 And of the corporations comprising the Fortune 500 in 2000, half are no longer on the list.2

Speeding technology’s value contributions

An effective competitive posture requires speed, agility, and flexibility. Businesses must support rapid prototyping and “fail fast” to explore options and test new ideas. Initiatives must be implemented quickly to respond to unanticipated shifts in market conditions and to take advantage of narrow windows of opportunity.

Traditional software development models are ill-equipped to address these demands of the digital age. In a typical environment, business users define their requirements to coders, who then develop applications based on those specifications. The process involves multiple iterations to accommodate changing needs and bug fixes. If users don’t clearly articulate their requirements, or if developers misinterpret business requests, delays, cost overruns, and IT/business misalignment can result. Since apps can’t be developed without coders, scarcity of technical expertise creates bottlenecks and fuels industrywide talent wars.

Consider the numbers. Only about 16% of software development projects finish within time and budget goals.3 In addition, 80% of US IT departments experience skills gaps and resource restraints.4  Among chief financial officers, meanwhile, 44% believe that IT and business objectives aren’t fully aligned.5

Low-Code and No-Code platforms and the citizen developer

To effectively support agile and innovative organizations, software development must become more open and democratic. Emerging Low-Code and No-Code (LCNC) technology platforms address this need by redefining how business applications are built—and who can build them. Characterized by intuitive, visual interfaces with drag-and-drop functionality, LCNC platforms allow an individual with minimal to no coding skills to build sophisticated web and mobile applications.

By making software development accessible to a wider range of skill sets and areas of expertise, LCNC platforms empower “Citizen Developers” to play a critical role in accelerating digital journeys. While a traditional model involves a cumbersome back and forth between IT and business teams, often producing a “lost in translation” effect, LCNC helps the business collaboratively co-create applications with IT. This way, development teams can integrate and test business domain knowledge throughout the development process. Meanwhile, the additional talent that LCNC brings to the table can give IT experts more leeway to focus on governance and control. The effect is to compress the development process, enabling rapid prototyping and review across IT and the business, so they can turn ideas into reality faster and more cost-effectively.

Agility, speed to market, and lower costs

For businesses, potential benefits of LCNC include innovation and speed to market, rapid prototyping and “fail fast” capabilities, enhanced process efficiency and workflow automation, reduced costs, and increased momentum for innovation. IT organizations improve visibility into application inventories and enhance reusability, thereby reducing volumes of “busy work.” Among employees, the democratizing impact of LCNC can foster a culture of autonomy and ownership and create new opportunities for recognition and career enhancement.

In terms of quantifiable benefits, LCNC can produce significant upfront and maintenance cost savings, and shrink delivery cycles from months to weeks or days. By dramatically reducing demand for traditional software development resources, LCNC can free up technical bandwidth for other strategic priorities. And because less effort is required to implement changes and enhancements, backlogs can be reduced dramatically.

Addressing the LCNC citizen development governance and risks

Benefits notwithstanding, the citizen development model poses some risks. First off, the idea that LCNC allows any business domain expert to simply start creating applications is misleading. While a Citizen Developer doesn’t require programming skills or deep levels of technical expertise, some familiarity with software development fundamentals is essential. As such, training around security, data protection, version control, and systems integration must be a cornerstone of any LCNC strategy. Moreover, adjusting your overall operating model, identifying the personas, backgrounds, and interests of employees can prepare Citizen Developers for specific roles around executing, managing, and leading LCNC initiatives.

In addition, proper governance structures are essential to avoid poorly designed applications characterized by key-person dependency and inadequate change and data control mechanisms. Such applications can easily proliferate and hamper visibility into the application environment, thereby increasing the operational risk of infrastructure sprawl and shadow IT.

A road map to Low-code and No-code maturity and citizen development

Organizations seeking to leverage LCNC capabilities should take a phased approach. An initial discovery period can identify a Citizen Developer team and specific use case to develop a proof-of-concept application. Ongoing assessments should gauge maturity and address any gaps that arise. Subsequently, experimentation can extend to developing applications for different parts of the business, while maintaining focus on quality and risk management.

As the organization matures, LCNC operating models can be adopted and scaled across different units and functions. Transparency, accountability, and effective change management are essential to ensure that Citizen Developer outcomes meet expectations. Systematic structural measures, tracked over time, can imbed cultural changes across the organization.

Fully mature LCNC organizations can leverage empowered Citizen Developers to create “always innovating” cultures characterized by creativity, agility, and rapid implementation of new ideas. Here, the IT organization functions as a collaborative partner, providing essential governance, controls, and oversight. Key metrics, meanwhile, systematically track and manage the performance of initiatives, projects, and programs.

Gaining momentum

By democratizing application development, LCNC platforms can drive enterprise innovation, transform the workforce and talent model, streamline operations, and break through the bottlenecks that have traditionally plagued development efforts. Businesses are recognizing the potential benefits: Estimates suggest that, by 2025, 70% of new applications will be created using LCNC platforms.6

To fully optimize results, however, organizations need to include LCNC as a vital component of the enterprise transformation and innovation vision. It’s also critical to adjust your operating model, establish a program to identify and train individuals suited for the Citizen Developer role. Finally, consider setting up comprehensive governance models and guardrails to mitigate risks and provide controls.

End notes:

1Michael Sheetz, “Technology killing off corporate America: Average life span of companies under 20 years,” CNBC, August 24, 2017.
2DXC Technology, “Digital transformation is racing ahead and no industry is immune,” Harvard Business Review (sponsored content), July 19, 2017.
3Martin deMartini, “3 premium ways to prevent IT project failure,” MSP Insights, November 8, 2016.
4“12 challenges facing IT professionals,” Global Knowledge, March 5, 2020.
5Art Jahnke, “Sound off—Why is business-IT alignment so difficult?,” CIO, June 1, 2004.
6Jason Wong et al., Magic quadrant for enterprise low-code application platforms, Gartner, September 20, 2021.

Get in touch

Adam (Amer) Ghattas
Low-code and No-code
Market Leader
Sheng Hong
Low-code and No-code
Innovation Lead
Dave Tortorelli
Low-code and No-code
Sales Executive

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