Citizen developers are not only changing the rules on developing software in enterprises today, they also are helping to improve productivity and data access for workers in the enterprise.
In short, so-called citizen developers–developers equipped with easy-to-use cloud-based solutions–are changing the way work gets done, as workers no longer wait for overworked IT professionals to develop an application to automate a core process or provide access to vital information. More often people are choosing to do it themselves using tools that require little or no programming.
“The citizen developer movement isn’t a new phenomenon: People have been using applications like Excel spreadsheets to create tools that manage data and track business activities for years,” said Wayne Byrne, director of product marketing at KeyedIn Solutions. “Although these tools are widely used to handle core functions like support desk ticketing and staff expenses, there are significant downsides to the practice from IT’s perspective.”
Byrne said most user-created Excel files are not encrypted, so there is a risk of a data breach. Another drawback is that productivity applications like Excel files are unwieldy in an increasingly mobile technology landscape, he said.
However, an application platform-as-a-service, or what Byrne and KeyedIn refer to as an aPaaS solution for IT and citizen developers, can be an ideal solution, he said.
“With the right high productivity aPaaS solution, organizations can capture the processes and workflows currently managed with user-created spreadsheets and databases without committing to expensive customization and lengthy development projects,” he said.
KeyedIn offers a visual aPaaS solution called Konfigure that has drag-and-drop features and easy deployment capabilities. Konfigure enables users to build secure, mobile-optimized and cloud-ready applications that can be integrated into existing systems. With no-code capabilities, citizen developers who intimately understand their business processes and data needs can create a custom application in a matter of hours rather than weeks or months, Byrne said.
Citing the ease of use of Konfigure, Byrne told eWEEK a junior at Dunbar High School in Ft. Myers, Fla., used Konfigure to create a cloud app that enables students to manage homework assignments. The student was introduced to Konfigure by Vella Technologies, a KeyedIn business partner. The product’s drag-and-drop functions and workflow-driven design enabled the student to build a cloud app in just a few hours, allowing teachers and students to manage homework assignments efficiently, Byrne said.
Similar innovations were exposed during the 2014 National Day of Civic Hacking event in Lee County, Fla. — where Ft. Myers is located. In addition to Dunbar High School students, local software developers, computer programmers, project managers and businesses participated to find ways to use publicly available data to improve the local community and explore new transportation options. The Ft. Myers Institute of Technology, Chico’s, KeyedIn Solutions and Binary Structures participated in the hackathon to seek new solutions as citizen developers.
KeyedIn Konfigure Enables New Generation of Citizen Developers
Internally, Byrne said KeyedIn employees have used Konfigure to build a variety of applications that handle core business functions, including a human resources app to track employees, payroll information and stock options securely, eliminating spreadsheets. A KeyedIn sales executive built an application to track sales quotes and orders, significantly streamlining processes for the company’s finance team. The marketing group created an event tracking application to manage tradeshows, speaking opportunities and conferences. And an intern who was a philosophy major is now creating new applications in Konfigure with no development experience; all he needs is an understanding of the business processes and workflows.
“The technology landscape is evolving quickly, but IT operations budgets have generally remained flat, creating a situation where business partners need new solutions to address emerging needs and IT leaders are scrambling to provide adequate resources,” Byrne said. “Resource shortages can prompt users to build applications that are inefficient for use on mobile devices and unencrypted, posing a grave security risk.”
However, “By providing an aPaaS solution, IT leaders can give users and IT professionals the best of both worlds, leveraging the talent and motivation of process owners while ensuring that the applications developed are secure, mobile-friendly and ready to be integrated into legacy on-premise or cloud-based core applications,” he said. “In that way, they can help citizen developers improve productivity from the classroom to the boardroom.”
Earlier this year, TrackVia, a Denver-based software company helping empower citizen developers to create their own mobile and business apps with clicks and not code, released a report that said citizen developers are much more inclined to find or build software to meet their exact needs versus waiting for or calling on IT to provide homegrown or generic technology solutions. They are also more likely to use personal technology, including devices and applications, at the office to do their daily work. And they are much more likely than their non-citizen developer counterparts to bypass IT to find their own technology solutions to business challenges.
The TrackVia report was based on survey results of 1,000 workers, along with insights from nearly 2,500 of TrackVia’s own citizen developer business customers.
Other report findings included that 50 percent of 18-29 year olds said they have built or would build their own business or mobile apps compared with 43 percent of those ages 45-60. In addition, 56 percent of citizen developers said they use personal apps at work, versus 28 percent of non-citizen developers. And 73 percent of citizen developers said they expect to be able to modify and customize their work computer or laptop by adding software and applications whenever needed.
Moreover, more than half of the citizen developers surveyed said they are most qualified to decide the software and applications they use at work, instead of IT or their manager; and nearly two-thirds of citizen developers said they will go around IT to find technology solutions, if IT doesn’t provide the business tools needed.