Eight in 10 Enterprises Turn to Citizen Developers for Innovation

To help close the skills gap, up to 80 percent of enterprises said they are turning to citizen developers, an IBM study found.

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IBM announced results of a global study that showed that 80 percent of enterprises are forming new partnerships with emerging groups such as citizen developers to close the skills gap for application development.

The study entitled "Raising the Game: The IBM Business Tech Trends Report," was conducted by the IBM Center for Applied Insights and is based on survey findings of more than 1,400 IT and business decision-makers in 15 industries across five continents.

The IBM study found that 40 percent of organizations still report a moderate-to-major skills gap across mobile, cloud, social and analytics technologies despite these technologies driving key innovations for enterprises.

In an interview with eWEEK, Sandy Carter, IBM's general manager of ecosystem development, said the report examined common traits of "pacesetters," organizations that are achieving tangible business results from cloud, mobile, analytics and social technologies. The so-called pacesetters are finding creative new ways to narrow the gap in skills their organizations have, whether this gap falls under general IT skills, application development or data analytics.

Specifically, these organizations are calling upon citizen developers, an emerging group of industry professionals who create new business applications and help with IT decisions as a side venture—outside of their regular work responsibilities. In addition to turning to citizen developers, these pacesetter organizations are twice as likely to turn to academia for product development and 70 percent more likely to turn to startups for execution.

"I love the idea of utilizing the talents of these scrappy citizen developers out there who are skilled in creating applications," Carter said. "This can help reduce the skills gap that exists in the industry."

Market research firm Gartner defines a citizen developer as a user operating outside the scope of enterprise IT and its governance that creates new business applications for consumption by others, either from scratch or by composition. A 2009 Gartner report projected that by 2014, citizen developers would build at least 25 percent of new business applications. Gartner said that this advance would enable end users and free up IT resources. However, Gartner also warned that IT organizations that fail to capitalize on the opportunities that citizen development presents will find themselves unable to respond to rapidly changing market forces and customer preferences.

IBM's Carter said partners that actively crowdsource ideas and technology assets with their customers, citizen developers and students drive deeper engagement for positive results.

For example, IBM business partner Esri, a provider of geographic information systems (GIS) software, regularly uses sites like GitHub, a repository for open-source code, to share and build apps for mobile, social, analytics and cloud technologies. In regard to its own product road map, Esri also conducts hackathons and application challenges that drive creativity and product feedback.

Esri recently sponsored a "climate resiliency app challenge," which was won by a student team at the University of Minnesota working on a semester-long project to assess solar suitability in Minnesota.