Bridging the App Gap: How Citizen Development Is Changing Business

There was a time not long ago when programming and development skills were exclusive to IT personnel. However, times have changed. As the demand for fast development cycles and more in-depth software support increases, the mysteries inherent in app development are becoming much less mysterious.

Now, new technologies are making it possible for non-IT professionals to create effective business applications quickly and at low cost. These “citizen developers” are doing more than bridging the app gap; they’re actually transforming their businesses to better connect with their clients.

What is citizen development?

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Citizen development (also called citizen application development) is a term used to describe the recent trend of businesses empowering traditionally non-IT employees to collaborate with IT departments to build business applications. IT departments sanction tools and security and provide direction in regard to application design and development, while non-IT employees focus on the actual application-building process.

And while citizen development is still picking up steam across the business world, it’s already making a profound impact. According to a 2017 research report, 32% of organizations are now providing tools and training for non-IT employees to cultivate app development skills. Additionally, 20% of executives surveyed say that more than half of their business applications are developed outside of their IT departments.

That said, developing an application from concept to launch is still a complex process that demands certain specific abilities. Getting citizen developers up to speed on these skills can be a prohibitively difficult, time-consuming process — unless you take advantage of low-code app-building solutions.

Take the code out of coding.

The low-code revolution is just getting started. Low-code solutions help close the skill gap between citizen developers and IT professionals. These solutions often consist of platforms featuring built-in tools, governance, and support options, simplifying the development process without sacrificing security. Low-code (and no-code) development platforms rely on clear, easy-to-navigate graphical interfaces, giving users the power to assemble and test working applications within the platform itself. Developers can then launch these applications for general use, all without ever needing to write a single line of code.

Simply put, low-code platforms take the code out of coding, and in the process, they are turning the dream of citizen development into reality. However, the questions that businesses must ask themselves are these: What advantages (if any) are there to decentralizing app development? Are those advantages enough to justify such sweeping changes to long-held development processes?

Why citizen application development?

IT professionals are more qualified and better experienced to create business apps, so why should businesses consider placing app development responsibilities in the hands of non-IT employees?

For one, citizen development benefits IT departments directly.

The demand for business applications is expanding exponentially, in many cases outpacing internal IT’s capacity to deliver them. IT departments are finding themselves buried under ever-increasing mountains of app-development requests on top of the regular duties of upkeep, infrastructure, and security. This creates a strain on IT resources, slows the development process, and forces (often understaffed) IT departments to prioritize certain requests over others. Citizen development frees up strained IT professionals, allowing them to focus on innovation and other vital, high-code projects.

Additionally, there are times when non-IT employees may have a more accurate understanding of the purpose and audience of the app in question. After all, business users are the end users who are feeling the strain without the business application. When this is the case, it makes sense that those experts would be the ones spearheading the development process — under the guidance and governance of the IT department.

Dividing application-development responsibilities among non-IT employees may also reduce the length of app-development cycles. According to the Salesforce “Top Trends in Low-Code Development” special report, 63% of IT leaders believe that low-code solutions will reduce the length of the software development cycle. Shorter development times means more applications released and more relevant timing on those releases.

Of course, in order to enjoy these benefits, businesses need low-code platforms that they can rely on. That means choosing a low-code solution that encompasses the right tools.

What should you look for in a low-code development platform?

Low-code platforms all have the same basic function: to give non-IT personnel the ability to create high-quality applications. However, not every platform offers the same functionality in the same way.

For the best coding support, look for platforms that are entirely cloud-based. Cloud-based tools are maintained offsite rather than on premises. Users access these tools remotely, often via any standard web browser. One key advantage of cloud-based platforms is that they rely on real-time data processing, meaning that any authorized users can collaborate on the same projects, even when they aren’t working from the same device. And given that it generally takes more than a single developer to build an effective application, cloud-based collaboration is absolutely essential.

Similarly, data-centricity is a key ingredient in any superior low-code platform. Application-development tools need to be able to integrate directly with reliable, up-to-date databases so that the applications they create are likewise data-centric. After all, if the apps aren’t built on reliable data, then they won’t be much use to anyone — in house or otherwise.

Effective platforms also need to be capable of building apps for any platform or device. Rather than relying on separate tools for building apps for PC, Mac, Android, iPhone, and so on, businesses that commit to a cross-platform solution will be able to offer consistent applications that connect with every possible user at no loss of functionality.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the platform should be easy enough for employees of all skill levels to pick up and use without extensive training. This means built-in training options such as tutorials and demos, as well as live support options. It also means that the tools themselves should facilitate fast, codeless development. Users need to be able to control development via simple, intuitive mouse controls. Point-and-click tools and templates help give employees full control over every element while also giving them control over the underlying business logic via drop-down menus.

Your choice of low-code development platform will have a major impact on how successful your switch to citizen application development can be. With that in mind, consider investing in a platform that gives you everything you need: the Salesforce Lightning Platform.

With the Lightning Platform, the age of the citizen developer is now.

Built on the world’s #1 CRM solution, the Lightning Platform is the cloud-based application development system that can turn even the least tech-minded employees into citizen developers.

With the Lightning Platform, you have access to top-of-the-line security, as well as process and flow capabilities. The Lightning Platform integrates easily with a wide range of existing Salesforce systems and processes because it is the foundation on which the Salesforce ecosystem is built.

The Lightning Platform features an intuitive user interface coupled with a metadata-driven framework. Built-in tools allow users to incorporate reliable, up-to-the-minute data socially, accessing information directly within the feed, and collaborating to create the best possible apps. Likewise, the Salesforce metadata-focused architecture provides unparalleled app stability.

Additional developmental services, including Lightning App Builder and Salesforce DX, means the Lightning Platform has all of the resources a business would need to create reliable, powerful apps. Thanks to the Lightning Platform, the age of the citizen developer is now.

The line between IT and business is blurring, and that means that app development is becoming everyone’s responsibility. Of those companies surveyed by Salesforce, 76% are very interested in developing applications using minimal coding. Be a part of the low-code revolution, and let the Lightning Platform be your path to citizen development. For more information, check out this webinar, and see how citizen developers are changing the business world.

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