Everything You Need to Become a Citizen Developer
Citizen developers are essential to organizations eager to stay competitive in a constantly changing digital landscape.
With the demand for new solutions higher than ever and a programmer shortage, businesses need to look outside of their IT department for support.
This is where the citizen developer shines.
By learning how to add this skill set to your toolbox, you’ll become a critical team member as your business looks for new ways to scale growth.
This guide will give you all the resources you need to become an effective citizen developer in your organization.
What Does a Citizen Developer Do?
Citizen developers are business experts with limited to no technical background. These individuals aim to develop self-service apps that solve targeted business problems.
With a better understanding of business workflows, citizen developers address specific pain points within processes and improve them with low-code/no-code tools.
These new app developers reduce the dependency on strapped IT departments. Even better, they enable organizations to improve business processes while keeping costs low.
Since citizen development enables business app development without coding knowledge, anyone can become a citizen developer by learning to use low-code/no-code tools.
Differences Between Citizen Developers and Software Engineers
Citizenship development is less about coding and more about understanding business processes to meet goals.
Citizen developers aren’t professional developers.
Instead, citizen developers are tech-savvy business users. They know low-code and no-code platforms. And they can build simple solutions. Professional developers, on the other hand, have expertise in building intricate technology solutions using programming languages.
While software engineers or programmers focus on developing technology, the role of a citizen developer is much broader. These individuals focus more on saving time and resources for the organization by optimizing their workflows.
Another key difference is that software engineers need specialized education and expertise in coding languages like Java, C++, and Python. Such proficiency better suits software development at an enterprise level.
Most importantly, citizen developers don’t start off with an innate understanding of IT policies and procedures. Rather, they must work with developers to build up competencies in these areas.
7 Must-Have Citizen Developer Skills
If you want to become a citizen developer, you need to master these skills.
1. Operational Knowledge
Citizen developers must have operational knowledge of their workflows and processes. These insights are key to designing tools and solutions that work.
Knowing why processes exist and how they operate will help you identify areas for improvement. You also know which data is vital, so you can collect and use it appropriately.
The more experience you have in the role, the more effective your solutions will be.
2. Team Player
Collaboration is essential for a successful citizen development program. You must work within IT guardrails and under IT guidance to create secure, effective solutions.
Citizen development cannot replace IT (nor should it). Instead, it will bridge gaps between departments and IT leaders. This means both teams will need to work closely together.
You should be great at collaborating with team members and not afraid to reach out for support. Also, you should be open to feedback and learning more from expert developers.
3. Critical Thinker
Citizen developers are critical thinkers. They’re actively analyzing workflows and processes, looking for gaps and inefficiencies. They ask questions and challenge the status quo.
Most importantly, they’re curious. They understand that change is constant, so learning and reflection must also be constant.
As a result, citizen developers ask powerful questions, avoid confirmation bias, and dive into data to create effective solutions.
4. Process Focused
Effective processes drive efficiency. Citizen developers understand this, so they think in terms of processes.
It’s not enough to identify a problem. Instead, they think about what solutions they need to reach the end result faster.
5. Independent Learner
Citizen development requires continuous learning.
There are numerous no-code/low-code development platforms available in the market. Plus, there are new technologies, approaches, and concepts emerging constantly.
It’s a rapidly changing market, and citizen developers must understand what’s changing and why. This will help them better work with IT teams and design solutions businesses need and customers crave.
6. Tech Savvy
Specialized knowledge of coding languages or databases isn't necessary for a citizen developer. Still, you need to be interested in technology.
Businesses are constantly launching new apps with new features every day. Sorting through that deluge of tech can be exhausting, especially if you’re not tech-savvy.
Citizen developers should be excited about change and actively involved in communities that share insights and ideas about emerging technologies.
There is a lot of start-stop with digital projects (especially when they’re done alongside daily tasks). Pushback, slowdowns, scope creep of daily tasks, and failed solutions can derail your enthusiasm and focus.
Customer demands shift constantly. IT leaders may also be antagonistic toward moving application development outside of IT. Even worse, team members may be frustrated with change management. And leadership can foster doubts.
Citizen developers need to be resilient and determined to succeed. As champions of this new approach to application development, they'll help lead change in their organizations.
How to Become a Citizen Developer (6 Steps)
Follow these 6 actionable steps to become a citizen developer in your organization.
1. Review Your Company’s Citizen Development Program
A citizen development framework is critical for success. If your business has one, start by reviewing those documents. If it doesn't have one, you should consider creating one.
The framework will tell you what platforms the business uses, available resources, and any policies or procedures for creating solutions. It should also have a dedicated process that you can follow to become a citizen developer in your organization.
2. Speak with Leadership
Without leadership buy-in, change won’t happen. But, you need to know how to approach leadership to get support.
Lead with data while focusing on the value that citizen development will have for the business, customers, and employees. Tie improvements to business goals. And illustrate the final result.
If your organization already has a citizen development program, express your interest and explain how you’ll add value to the program.
3. Use Low Code to Create a Simple Solution
Once you understand the basics and speak with leadership, the next step is to build a simple solution using low-code platforms.
As a business user, you should focus on a small, critical slowdown you could improve with low-code tools. Start by mapping out the process, then create a simple solution.
Your goal should be to get the desired result faster and easier.
4. Request Feedback
Before launching any solution, you need to get feedback from IT teams and leadership.
You want to make sure the solution is secure and compliant. And you want to avoid causing any major disruptions.
Nothing will take the wind out of your sails faster at the start of a citizen developer initiative than making things worse by accident.
Be open to feedback and insights. The more guidance you can get at this stage, the better, as it’ll make future developments much easier.
5. Get Experience
With your first solution built, you should look for new opportunities. Remember: experience triumphs over all.
Analyze other workflows in your department and look for opportunities to create low-code applications and integrations that increase efficiency.
And don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.
Offer to create solutions for other team members or even other departments. (Though, be aware that the further removed you are from a project, the less effective your solution may be.)
6. Continue Learning
As mentioned before, continuous learning is key to becoming an effective citizen developer.
With so many new, emerging technologies, you must stay on top of trends to provide actionable insights to business leaders and key stakeholders.
While you don’t need to learn code, it’s a good idea to learn a few fundamental programming concepts. Consider enrolling in introductory programming language courses or purchasing books to train yourself. It can make communicating with IT professionals easier and more beneficial. And it can give you a broader perspective.
Still, there are plenty of citizen developer resources available that you should frequent. This will help you stay on top of your game.
Are There Citizen Developer Courses or Certifications?
Given the rapidly growing market for citizen development, there are several courses available today for those eager to delve into it.
From database management to application deployment, there are low-code/no-code courses for individuals with little experience to expert developers.
Some of the popular courses include:
PMI Citizen Developer™
As a globally recognized institution providing certification and training in the field of project management, PMI offers a course on citizen developers targeted toward project managers.
The course covers all the fundamentals from scratch to the end, including:
- Understanding the role of the citizen developers
- Identifying flaws in processes
- Selecting the right no-code platform
- Designing visual models
- Deploying applications
30 Days Of No Code
As the name suggests, the 30 Days Of No Code training program aims to teach its users the process of learning no-code development in merely 30 days.
The general idea is to make visitors sign up for a newsletter, which then gets distributed in the span of 30 days.
And at the end of 30 days, the visitor won't only be acquainted with the idea of no code but also be able to design and build apps, workflows, and automations independently.
Codeless.how offers 10-minute tutorials for aspiring no-code learners. With courses on various subjects like automation and application deployment, Codeless.how offers brief and detailed video tutorials for its users.
In addition, users can compare and contrast no-code/low-code platforms. This can help your organization choose the best platform for its needs.
Makerpad is one of the biggest communities of no-code learners.
Established by Ben Tossel in 2019, Makerpad quickly became the largest source of tutorials and content for no-code development.
Courses offered by Makerpad range from no-code development to detailed guides on automation.
What makes Makerpad much more valuable is its strong community of entrepreneurs who are no-code enthusiasts. These members regularly share their experiences on how they're building applications within their start-ups.
Aimed at providing no code is more than a trend, AirSlate designed a very intricate course on no code. The course teaches AirSlate’s own capabilities as a no-code tool.
Besides covering technicalities, AirSlate also focuses on the role and mindset of becoming a citizen developer. Moreover, the academic course also explains the impact of no-code tools on businesses.
For a full list of citizen developer resources, check out our guide here.
3 Benefits of Becoming a Citizen Developer
Are you looking for motivation to become a citizen developer? Here are three main reasons to start investing in this skill set.
1. Increase in Pay
Given the growing market of no-code and low-code application development and skewed supply demand in the market, the rise in pay for citizen developers isn’t surprising.
According to Glassdoor, an entry-level software engineer has an average salary of around $88K. On the other hand, citizen developers, although from a non-IT field, have an average salary of $102K.
Citizen developers include job titles like process automation engineer, rapid application developer, and workflow automation.
The big difference here is that citizen developers are FTE in other fields with the ability to build solutions. While these team members earn more, it’s also more cost-effective for the business owner because they don’t have to hire an additional developer.
2. More Vital Role in Company
According to a Survey, 26% of top executives considered their investment in low-code/no-code tools most crucial for their automation.
The reason why citizen developers are vital to an organization is to speed up digital transformations without bogging down the IT department with more requests.
Reduced costs and increased efficiencies give organizations more bandwidth to innovate. The extra time and money they save can be invested in improving more areas of the business or testing out new ideas.
And with you leading the way as a citizen developer, you’ll get a seat at the table as a driver of positive change in your company.
3. Improve Work-Life
Citizen developers use their vast experience with existing workflows to improve how work gets done in businesses. Rather than grind through inefficient processes and workflows, they can redesign them.
Using integrations and automation, citizen developers can streamline tasks. They automate away the menial tasks like data entry. As a result, they can do more with less.
Instead of working longer hours and weekends to catch up on work, they get more time to focus on what really matters. This reduces burnout and improves their overall work-life balance.
Convincing Leadership to Adopt Citizen Developer Programs
If your business doesn’t have a citizen developer program, it’s critical to consider building one.
The programmer shortage is real.
And demand for digital solutions will continue to increase. Without the ability to invest in better systems that help your business scale, it won’t be possible to keep up.
Adopting low-code/no-code development to processes gives businesses the time and resources they need to stay competitive.
Start by being a champion for citizen development.
Learn the platforms independently and get a feel for what you could do with the technology. Then work with leadership to test out solutions and evaluate the process. From there, you can scale out citizen development in your organization with the support of IT.
Alternatively, you can work with us.
Quandary Consulting Group is a team of low-code experts and citizen development consultants who use our expertise to create, launch, and govern citizen development projects.
We offer the training and framework you need to get the most out of citizen development while reducing risk and disruption to your business.
Ready to launch your citizen development program?