citizen development

Contributor(s): Lauren Horwitz

Citizen development is a business trend that encourages employees to experiment with low-code no-code (LCNC) software development platforms. This approach to software development allows line of business (LOB) employees who have the necessary institutional knowledge to create software programs without needing to know anything about programming languages or how to write code.

Because LCNC platforms decouple programming languages and syntax from logic, they are well-suited for customizing modular software apps for multiple internal and external customers. The development environment allows the user to select icons that represent different application functions and connect components together like Lego blocks, apply actions, test to make sure the programming works as expected and publish the new code. 

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.

Given the way in which low-code and no-code platforms work, citizen development platforms are sometimes referred to as point-and-click platforms. As of this writing, popular vendors in the LCNC app space include Google, Appian, Mendix, Microsoft, Quick Base, ServiceNow and Zudy.

This was last updated in March 2016

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