“We’re all developers now. Citizen developer activities will accelerate.” That’s what Gartner predicted back in 2012. Fast forward more than four years and we’ve seen the DevOps movement explode, while the rise of citizen developers has also marched steadily. The challenge for organizations is to figure out how these two philosophies co-exist and complement one another.
What are “citizen developers”? The 2015 State of Citizen Development report defines them as, “… empowered problem-solvers from the various lines of business who have the drive and determination to engage in app development even though they lack traditional coding skills.”
DevOps is about agility and momentum. Automation. Continuous continuousness. The culture and tools that comprise DevOps are all about moving faster—facilitating better collaboration and streamlining processes to accelerate the development and deployment of applications. That more rapid pace relies heavily on automation, in most cases, and still has rules and procedures to manage how things are developed, tested, integrated and deployed.
The citizen developer movement, on the other hand, is sort of an evolution of rogue or shadow IT. There has always been “that guy” in any given company. The one who is too impatient to follow procedures or wait for IT to deploy a solution, and who knows just enough to be dangerous and brew his own unsanctioned tools. Citizen developers harness that same “maverick” attitude, but in a more acceptable and manageable way.
Platforms like Intuit Quickbase or Genesis from Metavine provide users with little or no coding experience with the tools to create effective applications without writing a single line of code. It may seem like that encroaches on the work of developers and confuses things, but there are two caveats to that. First, the users are in the trenches and have an intimate understanding of the issues they’re trying to solve—so theoretically they’re best-suited for solving them. Second, if citizen developers can use code their own solutions for the “low-hanging fruit,” then developers are free to focus on solving more complex business problems and developing more innovative solutions.
Metavine explains, “This approach for generating Cloud and IoT applications places more responsibility in the hands of the people who define business needs, freeing them from typical engineering constraints. Application development becomes more collaborative and highly creative, involving technologists, solutions architects, designers, and line of business people performing cross-functional work to produce agile business results.”
Craig Sproule, founder and CEO of Metavine, provided a description of Genesis. “It is a true zero code application development platform designed to enable the creation of enterprise-class applications. It allows developers and architects to build applications to meet exacting needs, while delivering unprecedented agility to the business.”
While at first glance it would seem that having a bunch of rogue citizen developers implementing their own home-grown apps is a bad idea and would complicate and conflict efforts to streamline development through DevOps. But the reality is that they can co-exist peacefully. Using the right tools and platforms, citizen developers can help solve some of their own problems more quickly and let developers focus on solving more complex problems.