Citizen DevelopmentSeveral years ago, through a research partnership, we identified a term that we felt identified a large segment of our user base—citizen developer. When we look at the personas of the people who download the Personal Use License versions of Cincom Smalltalk™, several types of users stand out to us. Most of them are full-time developers who are looking for tools to help them develop applications quicker and more efficiently. Some are people whose job is not necessarily app dev, but more of a supporting role in IT, Marketing Automation, Quality Assurance, or similarly associated with application development. After spending time working within their company and the overall team, they’ve identified a need they feel can be eased through an application they develop on their own to support the product group. Then there’s always the person who fits somewhere in-between these two, curious about application development and looking for a good place to land. This wide range of users perfectly illustrates what a citizen developer does.
There are many of these citizen developers around the world today, capable of offering more value to their employers. As companies are focusing on getting new and keeping existing customers, many business leaders don’t always understand the value of their efforts. Some companies might even consider them to be a liability or “rogue IT” as Forrester suggests, “likely to create messes and risks than real business value.”
Forrester says there is a reason for apprehension about apps created by business people, but IT leaders’ attitudes are changing as tools for non-traditional developers improve and their comfort for delivering apps grows. Understanding citizen developers and their place in the fabric of a company means releasing the fear of the bad “old days” of unmanaged and abandoned apps on tools that are now obsolete. However, business leaders need a clear definition of what “citizen development” means. In interviews with over 20 companies that hired developers like this, Forrester found three types of citizen developers that business leaders can hire to increase the capacity of this form of application delivery.
Recently, our team conducted a planning meeting at Cincom corporate headquarters where we reviewed our past marketing campaigns. You might recall that we recently produced a short video about the value someone can create by using Cincom Smalltalk. In this video, Suzanne Fortman, the Program Director and Engineering Manager for Cincom Smalltalk, talked about her favorite story. This story was about the journey two men took to success using Cincom Smalltalk.
This is our citizen developer story.
The cool part about this story is that as we were discussing it, our team began sharing other stories that they have encountered. For example, we discussed an admin we knew who became a full-time app-developer for their business. We talked about a business developer who was very similar to Suzanne’s favorite story above, developing apps part-time because they were busy in other roles for their day job. We also spoke about a power user who was the rock star hero for his company, building out custom tools for their cloud-based services in the office.
As we compared our notes with the Forrester story, we realized that our shared experiences were very similar to what thousands of others are doing for their companies as citizen developers:
- Line-of-business developers: Admin to delivering apps These citizen developers create apps full-time for business units big enough to need a full-time developer.
- Business developers: Deliver apps part-time This type of citizen developer is a business expert first and a developer second. Business developers deliver apps in their spare time. In fact, their job descriptions rarely include software development.
- Power users: Focus solely on personal and team needs These citizen developers are the office “heroes” who aggressively use spreadsheets and databases to speed up tasks, customize email clients and introduce cloud-based tools to help their team. They also build and configure tools for their own use.
Are you ready?Are you comfortable with the risks inherent in using applications developed by end-users? Many companies turn to them out of necessity because of scarce resources, shoestring budgets or time constraints. However, most companies really would like a little more control over the process. What if you could:
- Reduce the Risks by providing guidelines and a company-sanctioned framework that citizen developers would clamor to use?
- Increase your capability to produce new apps using the staff you already have – without going through IT?
- Reap the benefits of quickly-produced applications that are exactly what you need?