Gartner: 'Citizen Developers' to Deliver 25% of Apps by 2014

By 2014, citizen developers will build at least 25 percent of new business applications, according to Gartner. Citizen developers include everyday people empowered with newfangled tools to build applications and create mashups that can be used in enterprise settings.

By 2014, citizen developers will build at least 25 percent of new business applications, according to Gartner.

Gartner announced this bit of research news at it annual Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in Orlando, Fla., on Oct. 22. Gartner said that this advance should both 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.

Gartner defines a citizen developer as a user operating outside of the scope of enterprise IT and its governance that creates new business applications for consumption by others either from scratch or by composition.

"Future citizen-developed applications will leverage IT investments below the surface, allowing IT to focus on deeper architectural concerns, while end users focus on wiring together services into business processes and workflows," said Eric Knipp, senior research analyst at Gartner, in a statement. "Furthermore, citizen development introduces the opportunity for end users to address projects that IT has never had time to get to - a vast expanse of departmental and situational projects that have lain beneath the surface."

Knipp identified four converging forces that are advancing citizen development: mass personalization, infrastructure industrialization, changing demographics and developer tool evolution.

Knipp said mass personalization is custom tailoring by a company in accordance with its end users' tastes and references. End users start to become developers when they start to personalize software for their use, he said. Mashup tools enable personalization while allowing reuse of existing service-oriented-architecture investments. Moreover, ubiquitous access via mobile devices drives the need for further personalization of content and applications, he added.

What Knipp refers to as Infrastructure industrialization is coming via cloud computing, a model of delivering elastically scalable computing resources as a service over the Internet. Cloud computing frees application development from infrastructure ownership.

Meanwhile, changing demographics are resulting from the retirement of baby boomers, and the maturation of "digital natives" means that the workforce will expect technology to "just work," Knipp said. The "consumerization" of technology is not a trend for these people - it's a way of life, he said.

And, finally, developer tool evolution has made application development more accessible than ever.

Better technology has also lowered the bar for becoming a developer, while at the same time, users have become less intimidated by technology, empowering citizen developers to do more than they ever could before, Knipp said. Yet, Knipp said enterprises need to be aware of the limits of citizen developers and differentiate between the types of applications that IT can afford to let go of and those that it needs to maintain and manage more formally.

Moreover, Knipp said that while the blending of "IT and the business" is inevitable, organizations need to make sure that they both enable and govern end-user technical activity by:

"1. Setting criteria for permissible solutions2. Establishing an accessible development environment3. Requiring "just enough" methodology4. Including solutions in portfolio management processes"

"The bottom line lies in encouraging citizen developers to take on application development projects that free IT resources to work on more complex problems," Knipp said. "Citizen development skills are suited for creating situational and departmental applications like the ones often created in Excel or Access today. However, complex distributed applications and low-level, fine-grained developer decisions will remain in the hands of IT, while line-of-business applications will likely fit between the two and need to be carefully managed."