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Citizen Developers: The Rundown for SMBs

The term “citizen developers” has been gaining prominence in recent year, with a number of emerging development platforms now on the market.

A citizen developer is a non-IT professional who creates applications for use by others by using a low-code or no-code environment.

However, they should not be confused with “shadow IT”, which refers to coding or development activity that takes place without the knowledge of IT staff.

Citizen developers, on the other hand, are often employees who have an in-depth knowledge of their department’s needs and frustrations regarding work processes.

Using drag-and-drop components and access to a visual integrated development (IDE) environment, they’re able to create targeted and unique applications for web or mobile use with the sanction and oversight of a traditional IT department.

This low-code, no-code environment is critical for citizen developers to flourish.

What is Low-Code?

An app development vehicle that’s been experiencing rapid growth over the last few years, low-code platforms provide software that allows citizen developers to develop apps visually rather than employing cumbersome written code.

A combination of model-driven logic and drag-and-drop elements means that no prior knowledge of code writing is necessary, lowering the barrier to participation and giving SMBs access to low-cost ways to transform digitally.

Its importance is such that 85% of decision makers say they have two years to have moved forward significantly with their digital transformation strategies or risk falling behind competitors

Opportunities to use low-code apps can range from the upgrading of legacy applications to augment internal processes to the creation of targeted IoT apps to enhance the customer experience.

Regardless of application type, the low-code environment fosters collaboration and provides increased functionality to SMBs at reduced cost, citizen developers bring a whole host of benefits to the table.

Let’s explore some of the most prominent ways citizen develops can enhance the productivity and function of your organization.

Top Benefits of Citizen Developers

Citizen developers, with their hands-on knowledge of specific work processes and business goals can be more attuned to critical needs, a factor that helps them zero in on applications that can support crucial business processes.

In addition, they represent a great way for smaller businesses to take the lead on the development of technology that support productivity, increase the viability of customer relationships, and streamline business processes for cost savings.

Here are some of the ways they can help:

1. Reduced Burden on In-house IT staff

It’s no secret that most in-house IT staff—when businesses have the luxury of an in-house staff—are overburdened.

Pressing cybersecurity needs and troubleshooting critical operations are first-line tasks, often living little room for the development of “helper” applications.

Citizen develops help fill this gap, creating low-code applications to meet needs and freeing IT staff to focus on more critical tasks.

However, while citizen developers can accelerate process improvement and reduce the overload on the IT department, some of the more complex apps will still require the skills of a traditional developer.

benefits of low code graphic

2.  Improved Business Agility

Business agility is a key aspect of digital transformation and one that many businesses struggle with.

Traditional development, with its slow and often cumbersome processes, often contributes to this sluggish response to modern digital initiatives and keeps businesses bogged down by delays—and cost.

Citizen development, on the other hand, offers businesses the ability to pivot when trends change, providing quick turnaround through rapid experimentation to keep pace with new standards and stay competitive in a hypermobile market.

3. Increased Access to Untapped Knowledge

Industry professionals often have intimate knowledge of work processes and the needs of both employees and customers, but they’re unable to parlay that knowledge into hard-and-fast tools that can solve prominent pain points.

Instead, solutions are often created by traditional developers, who don’t fully understand the reason for the application.

This partial understanding can lead to less targeted applications or a long wait, during which time the need may have changed again.

4. Ability to Make Upgrades and Improvements on the Go

In the past, app development was a slow, laborious process.

Using written code, developers went through a process of test, retest, and modify, extending the development cycle and putting immense pressure on in-house IT staff or adding a negative impact to the budget if an outside developer was hired.

Using non-technical professionals and low-code platforms to take on certain projects transforms app development to an agile process, with development and upgrades being completed in days or hours rather than weeks or months.

5. Cost Effectiveness

First and foremost, using citizen developers in a low- or no-code environment extends the number of people engaged in your business’ process of digital transformation—a process that, among other things, is focused on streamlining processes for cost savings.

But, at its most basic level, the deployment of low-code functionality removes the need to rely on the skills of expensive developers and may even allow some companies to reduce in-house development staff.

Gartner predicts that by this year, at least 50% of all new business applications will be created with high-productivity toolsets, such as low-code development platforms

With a number of employees working on low-code projects, more applications are developed in less time, further reducing the cost of app development.

6. Employee Empowerment

When employees become citizen developers, they become more invested in working out intelligent ways to solve internal and external business problems.

Their intimate knowledge of departmental processes allows them to get to the root of problems fast, reducing frustration and fueling further interest in digital transformation.

In North America, nearly 60% of all custom apps are now built outside the IT department by professionals who have little or no IT coding experience

This type of investment and creative problem-solving increases collaboration and drives the kind of innovation that can move your business ahead of the competition.


  • A citizen developer is a non-IT professional who creates applications for use by others by using a low-code or no-code environment
  • “Low-code” refers to an app development vehicle that provides software that allows creators to develop apps visually rather than employing cumbersome written code
  • Citizen developers, with their hands-on knowledge of specific work processes and business goals can be more attuned to critical needs
  • Top benefits of allowing citizen developers to thrive in your business include: reduced burden on IT staff, improved agility, access to untapped knowledge, on-the-go improvements, cost savings, and employee empowerment that fuels further transformation

Learn More About What RPA Means for the Future

Robotic process automation helps companies achieve and maintain a competitive advantage in their industry. Through leveraging the tools available, which increase staff productivity and decrease costs—companies can enjoy higher operating capacity while delivering superior customer experience.

RPA is just one aspect of digital transformation which is changing the way small businesses operate in today’s constantly evolving landscape. To learn more about how you can modernize your organization, reach out to our Managed IT team and speak to one of our experts today!