Harnessing the power of the Citizen Developer in your Business: Everything you need to know

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As your smaller business grows or departments expand and evolve, having a Citizen Developer on the team supporting a low-Code platform such as Quickbase can be an invaluable asset in quickly adapting to a changing business process and information needs.

What is a citizen developer?

A citizen developer is someone who primarily works in the operations of your business and has developed additional competency to support and modify IT systems.  These individuals can make on-the-fly modifications to support changes in the business process and even develop new applications in a low or no-code application such as Quickbase.  For example, Quickbase features a set of tools that allow rapid changes to business applications that can be made by a non-technical user with ease.

Typically a Citizen Developer will have a strong interest in technology and information systems but will likely not have formal IT training or coding experience.  In fact, what can make them especially valuable will be their immersion in the business activities, so they can quickly understand the business requirements and then translate them into a systems solution.

What are the benefits and drawbacks of using Citizen Developers?


Reduce dependence and load on IT: Having Citizen Developers on your team means that you won’t need to go IT every time you need an application change or new capability.  This means your requirements can be met without a complex approval process and will also typically save cost and time in your department as well as reduce the need for IT resources.

Get the Application you need: Because your Citizen Developers will be intimately familiar with your business process and needs, they can develop applications and features that fit and work well

Make changes quickly: Instead of waiting for days, weeks or even months for small changes to your application, you’ll be able to get small adjustments made almost instantly in many cases.

Improve team productivity: As your Citizen Developers grow their skills they’ll be able to regularly find ways to leverage their low or no-code tools to support capabilities you may not even have thought of.  Sometimes this can be as simple as making a quick addition to an application or it might be creating a new application on the fly that helps your team work better.

Enhance someone’s career: Citizen Developers on your team become highly valued assets, learn new skills and have the satisfaction of contributing to improvements that lead to more and more success.  Many Citizen Developers speak of the positive impact it’s had on their career and job satisfaction.  In fact, many Citizen Developers who have become Quickbase experts have turned it into a career supporting and developing Quickbase solutions professionally.

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Lack of proper development standards: Because Citizen Developers typically have little or no formal training in application development they likely will not know best practices, naming standards, and other techniques to assure applications are built with the ideal design.  This can make the application difficult to expand and adapt when business needs change.  It can also make it difficult to support if, for example, a Quickbase expert is called in to provide assistance.

May promote “Shadow IT”: Often Citizen Developer projects arise because of a lack of IT support.  This can cause friction with IT or in some cases be seen as a way to circumvent IT governance or data applications.

Potential data security concerns:  Because of the limited technical experience of a Citizen Developer, they may not properly understand security configuration or how to identify when certain information needs specialized protections.  As such, it’s best limit these applications to lower risk data or get design help from a technology professional such as a Quickbase solution provider when in doubt.

Limited ability to optimize user experience: A Citizen Develop will quickly learn to build basic applications, however when it comes to optimizing and enhancing the application for the best user experience their technical limitations may get in the way.  For example, advanced Quickbase features support custom user interfaces, workflows and API integrations that may require a Quickbase expert to properly deploy.

Barrier to scalability: Sometimes business application built initially on the fly will grow and evolve into mission-critical tools that may need to be scaled up to support a growing business or collaboration with new departments, clients or vendors.  When these apps are built by a Citizen Developer they make lack key structural features to scale up or out.  In addition, the time and competency of the Citizen Developer may not be sufficient, so it’s time to call in professional platform or Quickbase developers.

How can a Quickbase solution provider can help you support and optimize the use of Citizen Developers

  1. Training: a low-code or Quickbase Solution Provider can help accelerate the learning curve and improve the productivity of a Citizen Developer by providing basic training on key features as well as best practices for designing business applications.  This will assure you get quality output and proper functionality.
  2. Application Design Support: Often, complex business requirements require proper application design to properly support.  A Quickbase expert can help your team create a proper conceptual and technical design and avoid common mistakes.
  3. Backup Resource: If your Citizen Developer starts to get overwhelmed juggling their ‘real’ work with application development and support a platform solution provider can offer additional resources such as Quickbase developers to fill in the gaps.
  4. Help with Governance, Security and IT acceptance: a Quickbase solution provider can work as a bridge to IT by assuring you are implementing proper security and application governance processes.  This will help gain confidence with IT, broader support for your projects, and avoid being labeled as Shadow IT.
  5. Advanced Enhancements: When complex Quickbase features such as custom UI or integrations are needed, don’t have your Citizen Developer go it alone. A professional Quickbase developer can plug into the team and deliver these capabilities.

Taking it to the next level: So, your application is now a critical part of you business process, other departments want to be a part of it, and management wants to roll it out to the whole company, your Citizen Developer is feeling totally overwhelmed.It’s time to call in platform or Quickbase experts and go for the big win!!

Need help with an existing Quickbase deployment or want to learn how Quickbase can turn your department into a model of productivity?

Contact MCFTech today and we’ll get you started quickly.

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