Much has been written on the rise of citizen developers, but little about who they are and why they choose to do what they do
The enterprise is always thirsty for new applications. More than ever, this thirst seems unquenchable. Consider a recent market analysis from Global Market Insights, which expects the enterprise application market to grow at a rate of 7.6 percent annually from 2016 through 2024. That’s a clip swift enough to more than double its 2015 $150 billion market size by 2024.
The demand for enterprise applications—and especially for mobile apps—is so high that most enterprise IT departments can’t meet it and often have backlogs of months to more than a year.
We’ve written extensively about how the citizen developer is now stepping up to fill this gap. Citizen developers are helping enterprises to not only close the application demand gap but also innovate more rapidly. However, we haven’t seen much regarding the nature of these citizen developers—who they are and what makes them decide to tackle app development independent of IT.
Recently, Apple subsidiary FileMaker Inc. surveyed hundreds of citizen developers within organizations ranging from five employees to more than 1,000 employees. Those surveyed either created or were involved in the creation of custom apps, didn’t classify themselves as IT professionals and were not full-time custom app developers.
As we’ve written before, we consider the rise of the citizen developer to be an extension of the consumerization of the IT trend, which began with endpoint devices, evolved to include many cloud services and now encompasses citizen development. Just as users began choosing which tablets and smartphones they would use for work, many staff members now are choosing, independently, to shun old-fashioned spreadsheets and endpoint databases for higher-level, cloud-based platforms that make it possible to build applications with little to no coding.
Why do citizen developers choose to develop work apps on their own? According to the FileMaker survey, it’s because a sizable majority—83 percent—wanted to create a better way to work, while 63 percent wanted to be more productive and 42 percent wanted to help others in their organization. Only 12 percent of citizen developers had been asked by their boss to start building apps. Currently, the citizen developer movement is self-directed and self-motivated—41 percent started developing business apps to improve their skill sets.
So who are these citizen developers? Not surprisingly, the majority are savvy computer users with no formal background in computer science or software engineering, and 34 percent play a management or supervisory role in their organization. When respondents were asked what three words colleagues would choose to describe them, about half chose “problem solver.” Other descriptors such as “creative,” “hard-working,” “organized” and “leader” also ranked high.
The citizen developers also reported that citizen development had a significantly positive impact on their career. Nearly half, at 48 percent, cited increased satisfaction at work, while 42 percent found that the practice increased their confidence, 29 percent received more recognition within the organization and had more time to work on efforts they enjoyed, and 26 percent felt increased motivation at work.
Finally, because citizen developers can spot a business need and fill it quickly with an app, they are helping to fill the application demand gap in many enterprises. Eighty-two percent of citizen developers said they witnessed a reduction in inefficient tasks, 71 percent reported an increase in team productivity, and 60 percent said their apps helped to reduce data entry.
They’re building these apps quickly, too—often building their first app in less than three months, according to 71 percent of respondents. Only 12 percent reported it taking three to six months to do so. That type of accelerated app delivery—when the idea is conceived, designed, and delivered by the users who needs the functionality—will not only help to clear app backlogs but also could become a cauldron of internal innovation.