How can CIO teams empower Citizen Developers?

Gayatri on October 18, 2020

Citizen Development is becoming popular with the support of low-code platforms to build applications with a visual interface, with assembling logical blocks, drag and drop, and just a few clicks.

The main factor that Citizen Development has become a topic of consideration for CIOs and top IT management of an organization is that it helps the organization to achieve its operational needs: the need to bring automation wherever possible to achieve business excellence.

Low Code Platforms takes the initiative of supporting citizen developers to develop apps without coding skills, bringing automation to any vertical of the organization, thus empowering them with rapid application development to support their business processes and increase productivity.

According to a report by Gartner, “By 2023, the number of active citizen developers at large enterprises will be at least four times the number of professional developers.”

In a Gartner survey on citizen development, “41% of respondents have active citizen development initiatives, and 20% of those that don’t are either evaluating or plan to start citizen development initiatives.”

Applications are usually developed in an organization by the IT department who looks after and builds all the features in requirement specification documents. To make any changes or restructure the source code to make modifications once an application is developed, one is dependent on developers.

Low code platform provides agility to the app development process where even citizen developers can build applications. Low-code platform enables easy modifications, version controls, and integrations to reduce IT backlogs empowering citizen developers to build their solutions quickly without worrying about change management (if required) in the application.

Whatever be the issues, citizen developers pose a new dilemma for CIOs who have to determine whether to encourage or thwart programmers of this kind. The circumstances are: CIOs will not know what platforms are being used by citizen developers, or how data is managed, posing businesses to security risks.

CIO’s Approach to Citizen Development

  1. Recognize the Areas- Recognize the business units which are interested in citizen development. The most frequently identified business unit to embrace citizen development is operations, followed by product development, finance, customer service, and HR.
  2. Identify Experts- Identify the individual who can wear the citizen developer cap, one who has the knowledge and expertise in his domain to identify the business issues and carry out development projects.
  3. Establish Boundaries- Identity what tasks could be easily implemented by citizen developers? What activities or tasks require the assistance of a professional IT team? How security will be managed? and Which activities should not be exercised by citizen developers regarding security and privacy concerns. Establish these well-defined boundaries to assist the citizen developers to remain functional in their defined areas.
  4. Choose a Platform- Choose the low-code platform that best suits the requirements of your organization, preferably one with enterprise-grade features, passed security audits, which is easy to use and trusted to provide power functionalities to build applications. 

The CIO’s role in empowering Citizen Developers

  1. Prioritize low code – Citizen developers who use low-code platforms can support the overall efforts of the organization to achieve operational excellence and have a great impact on the customer experience. Employees with a greater understanding of the application’s functional requirements can use low-code technology to quickly create apps to improve business functionalities as they understand the requirements better than anyone.  As a consequence, they have a higher likelihood of fulfilling organizational requirements with precision. And they should complete low-code tasks as soon as possible as their project is directly affected.
  2. Showcase the benefits – CIO should help showcase the benefits to the organization’s leaders and gain their trust to push this initiative forward. This begins by describing the low code advantages to the Board members, CEO, and other chief executives of the organization. As the citizen developer strategy starts with leadership, effectively communicating the benefits will help to make the citizen development a priority for the entire organization.
  3. Encourage Adoption – Employees must have been already using some technology to simplify their tasks. CIO’s should encourage employees to adopt low-code technology to bring efficiency in their day to day work. Many employees are passionate and self-starters to try new technology. However, some need the motivation to try low-code platforms. They need support to overcome the misconception that programming is restricted for programmers. It’s imperative to tell employees about the advantages of low-code development to help them learn how they can easily build apps to improve productivity.
  4. Encourage cooperation  between IT and Citizen Developers – When encouraging the two groups to work together, IT teams can assist citizens, developers, to create apps that enhance performance and efficiency. If the two groups work in isolation, it hinders the transformative impact that low-code platforms can deliver. According to Gartner, “IT must be involved in some aspect of citizen development; otherwise, the activities are more akin to “shadow IT. Application and IT leaders need to embrace and plan to support these initiatives more enthusiastically for the mutual benefit of the business and IT.”CIOs should encourage cooperation between IT and Citizen Developers.
    There is a common misconception that with low code programming, developers will hit a ceiling or they will be restricted with the functionalities that the vendor provides. The fact is programmers are relying on low-code tools to move beyond the basics so they can concentrate more on the complex and difficult coding for making custom apps. And using such low-code tools, they become exceptionally skilled in accelerating growth, – which means they can encourage citizen developers to build their solutions for business challenges.
  5. Show benefits to IT Teams – CIOs should show the benefits of using the low-code platforms to IT developers and teams to encourage adoption to quickly create business solutions. Some professional coders could have a negative view of citizen developers or may feel they are trying to invade their soil. Show the IT team that low-code platforms give them relief from building applications that are possible with low-code platforms. So that they can try other tasks and challenging issues to meet the needs of the organization.


Modern low-code platforms, like DronaHQ, allows CIOs to implement the Citizen development strategy and concurrently satisfy the requirements of both business units and the IT Teams. These platforms provide enterprise-class features and security controls, and the freedom to business users to quickly innovate and automate business solutions that IT would have had difficulties in implementation due to its limited resources, empowering citizen developers to build their solutions.   

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