Citizen Developers vs. Professional Developers | The Difference

The efficacy and utility of citizen development are currently under scrutiny when compared to the professional development sector. Citizen development involves non-technical individuals employing low-code or no-code platforms to craft applications tailored to their business requirements. In contrast, professional developers possess formal training and experience in software development, utilizing traditional programming languages to construct intricate and scalable applications.

While some proponents argue that professional developers play a pivotal role in ensuring the quality and security of software applications, others contend that citizen development can offer greater adaptability, difference, and agility in meeting business needs. This article delves into the advantages of citizen development, shedding light on why it stands as a viable choice for organizations seeking swift and efficient application development.

Would you like to explore the difference between citizen developers and their professional counterparts? Let’s delve into their distinct roles and skill sets within the realm of software development.


Citizen Developers vs. Professional Developers | The Difference and Charting the Course for the Future of App Development

In this discussion, we will delve into the strengths and differences in weaknesses inherent to both citizen developers and professional developers and how organizations can harness the unique capabilities of each to innovate and tailor applications to their specific business needs.


1. Professional Developers: Unveiling the Experts

First on the stage are professional developers, the coding virtuosos armed with the knowledge and expertise to design, maintain, and enhance software solutions for commercial use. They are typically engaged to wield their coding prowess in crafting intricate and scalable applications.


2. Citizen Developers: The Emerging Innovators

On the other side of the spectrum, we have citizen developers, the bright up-and-comers who are currently revolutionizing the tech industry. These individuals, despite possessing minimal to no coding background, operate beyond the IT department’s confines, wielding the power to fashion bespoke applications for themselves, colleagues, and even customers. They employ low-code/no-code platforms featuring intuitive visual interfaces and drag-and-drop tools to seamlessly connect components and fabricate software without writing code.

It’s no surprise that citizen developers are gaining remarkable traction within large enterprises, with Gartner projecting a four-to-one outnumbering of professional developers by 2023. In fact, 61% of corporations have either already initiated citizen development initiatives or have them in the pipeline.


Difference Between Citizen Developers & Professional Developers:

The difference between Citizen Developers and Professional Developers can be summarized as follows:


Title Citizen Developer Professional Developer
Formal Training Doesn’t necessitate formal training in software development Possesses formal training in software development.
Development Tools Utilizes low-code or no-code platforms for application creation. Employs traditional programming languages to construct applications.
Focus Concentrates on addressing specific business needs. Emphasizes the creation of complex and scalable applications.
Work Environment Typically operates outside the IT department. Works within the IT department.
Expertise Demonstrates a limited understanding of software architecture and security. Holds a strong grasp of software architecture and security
Development Speed Excels in creating applications swiftly and efficiently. This may require more time for the development and deployment of applications.
Flexibility Shows greater agility and flexibility in adapting to changing business needs. Tends to adhere more rigorously to development processes and standards.
Application Complexity Can create applications ranging from simple to moderately complex. Proficient in developing complex and highly scalable applications.
Troubleshooting Possesses limited ability to troubleshoot technical issues. Demonstrates a higher proficiency in troubleshooting technical issues.
Coding Knowledge Requires little to no coding knowledge. Necessitates advanced coding knowledge and experience.


Citizen Development Life Cycle

Traditionally, people heavily relied on their IT departments for enhanced functionality and seamless operations. They expected IT teams to continuously develop applications, maintain their smooth operation, and introduce new features and upgrades.

However, placing such a substantial burden on a single department proved impractical, given the dynamic nature of daily business operations and the ever-evolving needs of customers and employees. This situation gave rise to the citizen development movement, with a life cycle outlined below:


1. Reimagining IT’s Role

The traditional role of IT was redefined, shifting its focus from direct application development to infrastructure creation. IT teams began providing the necessary tools and data to employees, who could then utilize these resources to devise solutions for their specific business challenges.


2. Embracing Low-Code and No-Code Platforms

Central to the movement is the adoption of low-code and no-code platforms, which facilitate the creation of simpler solutions for organizations. These platforms have gained popularity, with approximately 80 percent of companies utilizing them for application development. Their ease of use empowers citizen developers to effectively address market-related issues.


3. Educating Employees

The key to this transition is ensuring that any individual who grasps the use of these tools can actively contribute to application development for the business, becoming a citizen developer. In the debate between citizen developers and professional developers, the user-friendliness of these platforms is a major advantage for citizen developers.


4. Guarding the Fortress

Despite the shift, IT still plays a vital role in the citizen development movement. They serve as overseers, responsible for assessing potential risks in integrations and permissions. Without their oversight, citizen developers would be unable to create, maintain, or upgrade solutions effectively. Their involvement is essential to maintain security and compliance.

In summary, the citizen development life cycle represents a shift away from IT as the sole source of application development, leveraging low-code and no-code platforms, educating employees to become citizen developers, and maintaining IT’s essential oversight to ensure the success and security of these citizen-led initiatives.


6 Strategies for Successful Citizen Development Model Deployment


1. Foster a Culture of Innovation

Promote a culture where your employees are encouraged to explore technology and embrace calculated risks. This kind of environment fosters innovation, a key ingredient for business success. Encourage employees to share their ideas and collaborate on solving challenges. Motivated employees are more likely to come up with unique and valuable solutions.


2. Carefully Select Promising Ideas

To ensure the success of the citizen development model, it’s crucial for your organization to identify actionable and viable ideas. Whatever ideas you choose, make sure to employ design-led thinking to drive business growth and improve organizational efficiency.


3. Opt for the Right Low-Code/No-Code Platform

The market offers a plethora of low-code/no-code tools, but finding the ideal one for your organization is essential. Selecting the right platform should be based on how user-friendly it is for non-IT teams to create citizen developer apps. Choose a secure platform that offers the necessary features for your business needs while staying within your budget.


4. Provide Comprehensive Training

Citizen developers typically possess moderate tech skills and a deep understanding of business processes, application infrastructure, and data. They are interested in learning app development but may require training to create effective applications. Offer tailored training that addresses your organization’s specific needs and assess their proficiency through basic testing.


5. Offer Clear Guidance

To succeed, closely monitor the app development process and establish guidelines for your citizen developers. This helps reduce errors and costly mistakes. Guide them in areas such as application development, approval processes, compliance, security, and testing methodology. Before embarking on app creation, citizen developers should have a clear understanding of the app’s target audience, purpose, and expected outcomes, ensuring alignment with your existing business objectives.


6. Promote Collaboration

Isolation can lead to costly errors among citizen developers. Without proper IT governance, they may develop flawed or redundant apps. Create a collaborative environment and define roles and responsibilities for both IT and citizen developers. IT oversight should be in place to ensure adherence to best practices in citizen development.


Author: Narbhavi M, Digital Marketing Executive


Low Code Platform

It’s time for you to create your own application from scratch!

Read More