How citizen developers are enabling digital transformation

Digital transformation requires not just a new set of technologies, but also a rethinking of processes and roles.

Part of this shift in mindset involves letting citizen developers—those with no formal development experience—find and create digital solutions to current business processes that are causing problems. These processes were traditionally the responsibility of IT departments, but they are moving to the line of business, where those who best understand the problem are. And why do they know the problem best? Because they are the ones dealing with it.

Rethinking processes

The word “transformation” doesn’t do justice to the effect on many companies of this change; it is actually a huge digital disruption. Organisations that successfully digitise will be driven by software based on highly customised yet flexible business processes. Decentralised workflow creation makes it all possible.

Many companies create systems of operation that serve their needs and then don’t think about changing them because “that’s the way we do things.” A company’s processes and workflows are what hold it together, enabling both internal and external relationships. These processes are, to a large extent, what defines organisational goals and how they’re executed. Competition has always factored into a company’s strategy, but it’s been accelerated by digital disruption.

That is why companies need to re-assess their processes and workflows. A lack of process automation is leaving companies vulnerable. The impulse to specialise, centralise and standardise continues to influence decision-making, even as the digital tsunami crests. Business processes have traditionally been highly manual and heavily siloed. Instead of putting brainpower and resources toward innovation and execution, companies that don’t automate remain bogged down in an increasingly arcane world of paper, spreadsheets and legacy technology.

Shifting tactics, shifting culture

The pressing need for process automation has led to a shift from centralised development that caters to distributed teams’ needs to a decentralised app creation model. This empowers the workforce with the tools to create, modify and manage processes as near as possible to where business issues occur. This agility is providing organisations an easier, faster way to advance their goals.

A recent report by 451 Research and FileMaker, Inc., Custom Apps: The Engine for Digital Transformation, found that companies are increasingly turning to custom app development to create greater business agility, work throughput and innovation. And citizen developers are leading the way. Nearly 60 percent of all custom apps are being created outside the IT department.

Employees with either limited or no technical development skills are building 30 percent of those non-IT department apps. In small companies, 47 percent of business owners are leading app development strategy. 82 percent of all businesses report that citizen developers are going to become more important over the next two years.

Citizen developers are spurred on by a greater sense of autonomy and a greater likelihood of influencing business process design and impact. Recognition of such contributions then becomes part of a new company culture. As those who have the most to gain are empowered to problem-solve, employee engagement increases.  

Another effect of citizen development of custom apps is greater ease in achieving business outcomes. As business stakeholders gain greater responsiveness to changing market conditions through more direct and immediate changes in process design and resource allocation, business agility increases.

Empowering the citizen developer

In an era of rapid technological change, outdated workflows and manual processes will not work. Organisations that don’t automate their processes and streamline workflows will fall behind quickly and may never catch up to their competitors. The monolithic structure of IT is breaking down, as is the division between IT and business.

Organisations are decentralising decision-making, putting power into the hands of those on the front lines to solve business challenges. Citizen developers are enabled by today’s low-code/no code custom app platforms to put their real-world experience to good use, transforming customer interactions and the business itself.

Read more: The truth about low-code platforms: Debunking the myths

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