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What Is a Citizen Developer?

Citizen development

Citizen development sometimes gets a reputation as the “Wild West” of software development—but with the right no-code platform, it’s anything but. 


Those exploring no-code and digital transformation have surely come across the term “citizen developer.” It’s a huge buzzword, but what does it really mean? Well, according to Gartner, a citizen developer is “someone without formal coding expertise who creates new business applications using development and runtime environments sanctioned by corporate IT.” But that's taken on new meaning in the no-code era.

The term has become increasingly popular over the years because businesses see it as a way to broaden the scope of their IT department and maximize internal resources. Citizen development also aims to include more people in the software building process in a way that meaningfully speeds up digital transformation.

At Unqork, we have mixed feelings about the term “citizen developer.” No-code naturally goes together with citizen development because it allows people from all backgrounds to contribute to the build of sophisticated applications—but that openness can come with challenges if not handled correctly. While we proudly support digital democratization, we don't want IT functions to devolve into digital anarchy.

In this blog post, we will attempt to take a stance on what good citizen development is—and what it isn’t.

What Citizen Development Isn’t

We want to be clear about this: Citizen development isn’t the Wild West of software development. While a wider spectrum of employees can take part in building applications, citizen development shouldn’t mean that all employees should have direct access to the process. 

If everyone is encouraged to create whatever applications they want at any given moment, this has the potential to introduce new security and compliance risks, and clutter business directives. Not only is this kind of citizen development ultimately unproductive, it’s also incompatible with how successful IT departments function today. 

Want to see no-code in action? Check out this demonstration where we build an enterprise-ready application in only one minute.  

Along the same lines, citizen development should also not be seen as a gateway to unfettered shadow IT. Shadow IT refers to projects that aren’t directly managed by the IT department. This can pop-up when business users take tech matters into their own hands because their needs aren’t being met by their IT team. 

On the surface, this sounds like a good deal—if the IT team is overworked and drowning in a project backlog, business users can ease some of that burden and just independently create what they need. However, business users don’t necessarily have the same security concerns that IT teams do, and there’s a very good chance that any software added to the stack is going unpatched or that sensitive data isn’t being handled securely.    

Applications built by citizen developers on a centralized no-code platform, however, can be monitored and controlled by the IT department that administers it. We believe that citizen development is about finding more meaningful ways to bring business users into a structured, collaborative development process that meets everyone’s needs, rather than enabling employees to create their own custom applications with no oversight. 

What Citizen Development Is

Citizen development makes it easy to create custom applications that are informed by a breadth of knowledge and reflect the true needs of the business. With traditional development processes, timelines are long and the processes are so siloed that opportunities to evaluate progress and provide substantive feedback are few and far between. 

Citizen development with no-code enables greater visibility into every stage of the build process, which means the final product is more well-rounded and reflective of a variety of perspectives. This way, the users who know the business challenges best will have a chance to directly shape the technological solution.

Citizen development with no-code enables greater visibility into every stage of the build process, which means the final product is more well-rounded and reflective of a variety of perspectives.​

This doesn’t mean that citizen development with no-code should only be used to produce small, inconsequential applications. Early no-code technologies were marketed toward citizen developers and specifically designed for simple projects, but that’s not the case when it comes to an enterprise-level platform like Unqork. 

Our no-code platform takes core engineering rules and places them in a completely visual context, allowing both engineers and non-engineers to create rich, complex applications and accelerate the organization’s output. Citizen development democratizes software development by removing a reliance on specific (read: expensive) technical skills, which then empowers your team to create high-quality applications in a fraction of the time. 

Why the Tools You Choose Matters

We define citizen development as the idea that business users can work with the IT team to securely and responsibly build their own application without using code or relying on outside developers. It’s not inherently risky—at least, not when it’s done our way. To reap the benefits of citizen development without incurring the potential risks, you have to choose the right no-code platform.

Unqork supports responsible and robust citizen development because our platform works within the jurisdiction of the IT department. You can configure in real-time with a visual tool, which allows you to spend more time focusing on business logic and less time worrying about syntax. The Unqork platform also has enterprise-grade security built-in from the ground up, meaning your IT team can rest assured that the apps your team creates will be secure and compliant with industry regulations.

Without the right no-code platform, citizen development can cause as many problems as it solves. But with Unqork no-code, your organization unlocks a team of citizen developers who can build high-quality apps responsively, get products to market faster, and make your company more resilient.