Increased competition across industries pressures businesses today to find solutions that enable them to respond more quickly to changes in the marketplace. Companies are looking to modernize and automate their business processes with web-delivered customer service, mobile applications, greater use of the cloud and other techniques that break with legacy approaches to business.
At the same time, the business is asking IT to focus on higher-level platform concerns that drive this modernizing, automating strategy. Traditionally, IT had central control over developing and deploying business applications throughout an organization. The process of requisitioning new applications was often fraught with bureaucratic red tape and long lead times. While these requirements were considered necessary for quality assurance and adherence to corporate standards and security protocols, they placed a burden on both overworked, understaffed IT departments and users who simply want solutions to their business problems.
As a result, IT departments struggled to keep up with demand, creating backlogs of a year or more. Tired of waiting, the lines of business took matters into their own hands and bypassed IT altogether either by purchasing unsanctioned off-the-shelf applications or developing their own solutions. Some hired professional developers or turned to outside consultants to tackle these problems. The results often didn’t meet corporate IT standards and often created conflicts organizationally or between systems that are not interoperable.
Out of this chaos, a new species of developers has emerged — citizen developers.
Platforms for business app development are advancing quickly and the current generation of workers are digital natives who grew up with technology and are not intimidated by it. They are accustomed to working with a variety of technologies as part of their lives and are more likely to want applications that can automate tasks and business processes. However, they aren’t waiting for the lengthy, formal IT process. They want solutions today, not a year or more down the road. And they are willing to live with good enough while they tinker to improve their work.
This combination of evolutions in technology platforms, organizational dynamics and the workforce produced the rise of the citizen developer. These people are linchpins in a new working relationship between IT and the LOBs.
Any new organizational model demands negotiating new roles, responsibilities, challenges and opportunities. IT’s embrace of citizen development is not about relinquishing power but moving up the stack. While there are some risks associated with ceding control to citizen developers, the benefits are far greater when IT implements and manages a citizen developer plan in partnership with the LOB.