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This content is part of the Essential Guide: Evaluate low-code app development strategies, tools and practices

citizen development

Contributor(s): Lauren Horwitz

Citizen development is a low code approach to software development that allows people to create software programs without needing to know anything about programming languages or how to write code. A low-code development environment allows the user to select icons that represent different application functions, connect components together like Lego blocks, apply actions, test to make sure the programming works as expected and publish the new code. 

In business, citizen development has evolved along with IT consumerization. In the past, employees seeking to make a change to a business application were often frustrated by how long it could take for a simple request to make its way through a development queue in a centralized information technology (IT) department. It could take months for even the smallest project to be approved, by which time priorities may have changed because a competitor was able to respond to changing business requirements in a more agile manner.

A citizen approach, in contrast, empowers business users to create new applications or features very quickly, using an approved development environment managed by the organization's information technology (IT) department. This approach not only speeds innovation, but it also makes the application development process more efficient and helps eliminate security problems associated with shadow IT and third-party apps.

In order to meet the needs of employees who must respond quickly to a changing marketplace, some large enterprise application vendors are providing their customers with the ability to build applications on top of their business platforms. For example, in 2016, Salesforce announced it would bring its Lightning development platform to all six of its production clouds to enable greater ease of development and standardization of practices in developing on top of Salesforce.

This was last updated in March 2016

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Does your company enlist citizen development -- why?
I would say no, most efforts at such things, in my experience end up being more headache than they are worth.