How CIOs can make the best use of their citizen developers

Gartner predicted the rise of the citizen developer in 2012 when it declared “we’re all developers now”. By 2018 Gartner estimated that more than half of all B2E mobile apps will be written by citizen developers and business analysts using codeless tools.

This trend has many CIOs concerned about how these novice developers will be trained and how data security will be maintained.

Demand for apps hampered by skills gaps

More businesses want to take advantage of the phenomenal increase in mobile app use. Many are now considering how to develop their own apps to extend the reach of existing business applications, improve customer service and business efficiency.

According to analyst firm App Annie, the global mobile app economy will be worth $6.3 trillion by 2021, a 380% jump from the $1.3 trillion app market in 2016. During this same time frame, the user base will almost double from 3.4 billion people using apps to 6.3 billion, while the time spent in apps will grow to 3.5 trillion hours in 2021, up from 1.6 trillion in 2016.

However, currently the huge shortage of skilled developers is preventing many firms from developing apps. Last year Accenture highlighted that around 745,000 workers with digital skills were needed in the UK to help close the skills gap.

A Government report also suggested the shortage in digital skills represents a key bottleneck for industry and is linked to one in five of all vacancies. 72% of large companies and 49% of SMEs are suffering tech skill gaps.

Given this situation, using citizen developers -  employees, who may be outside the IT department, but have some technical skills and the ability to develop apps given training and support seems a sensible solution.

One way of using citizen developers effectively to provide them with rapid app development tools. These low code tools enable companies to develop sophisticated, full function web, hybrid and even native business apps, in a fraction of the time of other methods and, often, with simply the skills that they already have. 

But how can CIOs ensure citizen developers will deliver high quality apps that meet business objectives, as well as security and compliance controls?

Training is the key to successfully using citizen developers

A YouGov survey for Appion last year amongst 500 IT decision makers suggested that citizen developers also pose risks for data integrity (73%), security (69%) and integration (58%).

To overcome some of these risks CIOs must consider how citizen developers will be trained and supported. Most employees will lack traditional development skills, therefore it’s crucial that IT departments are involved in the entire development process.

Security and compliance teams should also be involved to ensure citizen developers have security and compliance awareness, and that apps are developed in line with company policies, as well as regulations that might apply in their industry.   

Many of these challenges can be overcome by choosing the rapid business app development provider carefully. Having the right partner who can provide full support and training is essential to ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible and achieves the required outcome.

Citizen developers will be coming from different starting points. Some may be highly confident with code; others will be absolute beginners, so it’s essential the provider offers training resources and support to suit all needs.

This could come in the form of online videos, tutorials and downloadable training guides. All should be tech jargon free as well as clear instructions on how to get started.

A good low code solution should also be flexible and easy to roll-out across all platforms, devices, databases and operating systems, meaning that input from IT is minimal.

One company that has benefitted from rapid business app development tools is Groware one of Canada’s leading providers of software for the grower and nursery markets.

The small team at Groware has been using Evoke, a rapid app development platform from Bluefinity International to develop mobile apps to help its customers ease inventory management challenges. The apps allow customers to stock take accurately, plan their crops and manage their business more effectively.

Evoke provided Groware with a low cost and completely flexible platform that integrated with its existing databases and enabled it to use its existing code to quickly and easily create mobile apps. In just a few months of working together, Groware launched its beta mobile apps to rave customer reviews.

For Groware, a key benefit of using Evoke has been the level of support provided by Bluefinity throughout the development process and that Evoke enables apps to be created and optimised for any device with the right look and feel for different customers.

A low code development platform can enable citizen developers to design high quality, secure business apps with all the support and training they will need, helping companies reduce costs and bridge the skills gap.

 

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