Citizen developers take on more of the heavy lifting of business applications

We see it all around us — qualified developers are hard to find and those who work at organizations are busier than ever. Today’s enterprise developers must not only build and maintain critical applications, but also play a more visible advisory role to the business.


Photo: Joe McKendrick

That’s why it’s critical to shift development work to citizen developers, insists Karen Odegaard, general manager of global IT at Accenture. “IT organizations today have a lot of unmet demand,” she explained in a recent podcast. “We see that when citizen developers… [the power to create their apps], they can create solutions 10 times faster than relying on centralized delivery of IT solutions. There are great benefits to both the people who create these apps and the IT organizations.”

There are important benefits to IT organizations, says Odegaard: “You get people closest to the problem to solve them. So you don’t need IT to translate it. And you probably create solutions to problems that never would have emerged on IT’s radar. and we are also as an IT organization, gaining insight into that. and it arms us with knowledge to provide better solutions for our people across the enterprise.”

For IT, “this is a shift in the way we develop applications,” she continues. “So we need to shift our thinking about compliance and governance for technology to the platform level rather than the app level, which is what we pay most attention to today.” In addition, there will eventually have to be ways to reuse and reuse citizen-built apps across the enterprise to prevent such apps from clogging systems and networks. “We now need the ability to re-harvest and centralize user-created innovations,” says Odegaard. “You can imagine how much effort that can be for an IT organization, so we really need to think about that and how we can scale that.”

Accenture itself now has a stable of 14,000 user-created applications, Odegaard says. An example of user-developed applications is “a team that created a compliance application,” she says. “They’ve taken a very disparate and complex process and added a rule engine to make it easier for their team. As a result, they’re seeing a 75% reduction in security-related incidents across their organization.” In another example at Accenture, “My favorite is a team that created a consolidated view of data that our leaders needed on the go, and they created a Power app designed specifically for mobile to solve that problem.”

An important lesson we learned from these activities is that “there are many players in the ecosystem around no- and low-code platforms. We needed to have a limited number of use cases to target our citizen developer platform” , says Odegaard. “It’s going to be a more difficult decision about what should live on each of the platforms we have within our organization.” Licensing implications also emerge, especially now that tens of thousands of applications are supported, she adds.

To encourage the growth of user-built applications, Odegaard urges proponents to “show the user population real-world examples of how easy it can be that anyone can do it.” Technology will also play a role in increasing adoption. “Self-service robotic process automation will bring tremendous benefits to our workforce, allowing people to automate manual tasks themselves.”

From a citizen developer’s perspective, “The ability to design and create app experiences faster than ever before means they reclaim valuable time. They’re automating their work now. For high-value resources like our developers and architects, we’ so focus on the more complex solutions that increase enterprise value.”

Also remember that professional developers themselves can use low-code and no-code solutions to speed up their software delivery work.

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