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Why (and how) the citizen developer is going to be your new BFF

Low-code/no-code platforms are making it easier for nontraditional developers to create applications for internal and external use. And they're helping lessen the backlog, too.

If you've been wondering how your team would ever get through the enormous unfilled requests backlog, the answer...

might surprise you: so-called citizen developers.

Low-code/no-code platform provider QuickBase just released a survey of citizen developers (205 of them were customers and 153 were not). According to the survey, backlogs were reduced by 65% when citizen developers got involved.

At a time when traditional software developers remain in critically short supply around the world, the idea that nonprogrammers, who are often line of business people, can use a no-code platform to create applications has become more appealing to enterprises in desperate need of development help. And this is not just a temporary fix, said QuickBase vice president of marketing Karen Devine.

"In the eight years I've been at QuickBase I've heard customers talking about application development as a 'side job' and how it's been a struggle to get their bosses to acknowledge what they're doing," she said. But in the most recent survey, 76% of respondents said application development is now part of their "day job," and that number is up from 68% last year. "People are now making careers out of this," Devine said. "They're getting promoted because they can do this and they're hiring and training other people. It's surprising and exciting to us."

That wasn't the only surprise. Citizen development really started with business people who had an idea about how to make work life easier, but the IT department didn't have the bandwidth for what were seen as small "inward-facing" applications. But based on the survey results, that is beginning to change. A solid 35% of apps built by citizen developers are customer-facing today, up from just 28% a year ago. And that's the fastest growing category of citizen developer-built apps, Devine said. "I don't think in the early days anyone was comfortable with the idea of customer-facing applications," she said. "But once you are comfortable and the first customer-facing app takes off, you can see that maybe we've hit that inflection point and we want to start letting customers in."

What kinds of apps can citizen development platforms enable? The QuickBase survey called out 26 different options and a variety of use cases with a particular emphasis on management. Areas of focus include asset, project, inventory, service, compliance and workforce management as well as IT help desk functions.

But at the end of the day it's really all about speed. A full 53% of customer survey respondents said citizen developers can build apps in less than two weeks. And noncustomers didn't disagree -- they said the top benefit of using citizen developers was the ability to maintain and update applications far more quickly than it would take traditional developers.

"We're in a really changeable environment," Devine said. "These people (early adopters) were true evangelists and this has all moved way beyond what they started with. This was just an idea to begin with and now it's their job."

Next Steps

Why CIOs are feeling the love for citizen developers

For best results, write tighter code

When low code meets mobile

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