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With the workforce in today's digital age, the distinction between developers and non-developers is fading. More and more platforms designed for "low code" or "no-code" solutions are being launched every day - so tasks that would have been impossible for non-developers in the past are becoming accessible to just about anyone who can turn on a computer.

The most visible example would be sites like Wix and WordPress, which make building a brand new website as easy as a few clicks of a button.

If you're facing a technical issue, you can turn to Google and figure out a workaround, so when a professional developer tells you something is going to be hard, you roll your eyes and go look it up.

The average person interacts with technology daily, so technophobia became a thing of the past, making business units more open to the idea of getting involved in IT innovation initiatives.

Gartner predicts that the number of active citizen developers at large enterprises will be at least four times that of IT professionals by 2023.

The ever-increasing pace of the IT world makes it more challenging to keep up with the competition for organizations where departments have to wait for IT resources to free up.

This is where citizen developers come into play, representing a major shift in how we interact with technology that will redefine how we approach software development.

This article explores how citizen development will shape the API industry to help businesses adapt their digital transformation strategy to this trend.

Who Are Citizen Developers?

Citizen developers are non-IT employees who frankly know enough to be dangerous. They probably learned basic software development in school, and now they use low-code or no-code platforms to accomplish a growing number of tasks that used to require a trained coder.

From HR to marketing, citizen developers leverage their industry expertise to create solutions with a strong product-market fit, helping companies grow the value of their API assets.

How Businesses Will Benefit From the Rise of Citizen Development

Citizen development brings a wide range of unique benefits to the business world, disrupting the entire digital economy.

1. Build User-centric Innovations Into Your APIs

Since citizen development entails getting non-technical specialists deeply involved in building software, these new major stakeholders bring fresh ideas and perspectives to the table that can lead to a new wave of software innovations.

While developers can get hung up on solving the big backend problem and tend to prioritize technical issues over user-friendliness, citizen developers focus on the user experience and the usability of what they're creating.

IT specialists don't know the ins and outs of marketing, sales, or HR, which often means they are disconnected from the target user's pain points.

This is where citizen developers come into play, helping companies drastically expand the spectrum of their applications and API products.

2. Bring More Ideas to Life Without Breaking the Bank

The percentage of digitally transformed enterprises is projected to make up 50% of worldwide nominal GDP in 2023, and developers are needed more than ever to meet the growing demand.

As developers' price has increased over time, countless numbers of great ideas and initiatives never saw the light of day as companies are forced to prioritize mission-critical tasks to stay within budget.

Citizen development can change that by providing non-technical users with the tools they need to innovate without relying on your IT department.

Having true developers build out API products to empower citizen developers to innovate in a user-friendly ecosystem can exponentially grow your business.

As an added benefit, business units will be able to help your IT teams with product improvement and creative ideas for new API products.

Today's digital businesses face constant pressure to innovate and better serve their end-users - at a faster pace than ever before.

For large organizations, it might take months - if not years - for non-technical employees to get the green light for their idea, gain access to the development resources needed to build their solution, and launch the product into the market.

And by the time that happens, it might be too late.

With low-code or no-code platforms and leveraging the power of APIs, citizen developers can start testing out their ideas right away without the need to overcome so many obstacles, drastically reducing time to market.

3. Align Business Leaders and IT Teams

Aligning business leaders and IT teams might be pretty challenging at times, leading to loss of productivity.

While business users understand what API products should accomplish, it might be difficult to convey that to help developers find a practical way to execute their ideas.

Citizen development aims to bridge that gap by incentivizing organizations to develop an ecosystem where IT people, business units, and citizen developers can seamlessly collaborate.

This approach makes building more robust API products easier based on ecosystem feedback. It is guaranteed to lead to higher adoption as your end-users become stakeholders in the development process.

These days, no code and low code platforms make it possible for non-IT business units to collaborate with developers or even create their own apps, promoting creativity and innovation.

The Main Challenges of Citizen Development

Even with more straightforward applications, there are caveats and challenges.

To equip citizen developers with the tools they need, organizations should consider the following pitfalls of citizen development.

1. Lack of Training and Technical Skills

Even though modern no-code platforms make the development process significantly more accessible, they still have a learning curve for non-technical users.

While some employees adapt quickly to development tools, those unaccustomed to coding may find citizen development a challenge, leading to an overreliance on tools that can't get the job done exactly as intended.

Training programs, peer reviews, and testing can help your employees make their first steps in the IT world to move the needle.

2. Resistance to Change

The idea of building software with their own hands is entirely alien to most business users, meaning your attempts to implement citizen development may meet some resistance within your organization.

Citizen development should be encouraged, rather than forced, by providing appropriate training, tools, and incentives for those who want it.

Think rewards over expectations. With this approach, business leaders can foster a healthy culture of citizen development.

3. Compliance with Regulatory and Industry Frameworks

According to Gartner Research Director Mark Driver, citizen developer platform vendors often overstate the compliance capabilities of their software.

"Some platforms do look after that," Driver said, "But there are examples of apps built with citizen developer tools that completely ignore privacy and compliance issues."

Employees may have more insight into their company's needs in a software application. Therein lies much of their value - but they're unlikely to be aware of all the necessary regulatory and compliance issues related to releasing an API product.

How API Portals Are at the Core of Citizen API Development: Power of the Ecosystem

One of the most effective ways for organizations to adapt to citizen development is to make their API products more accessible for non-technical users, increasing the value of their corporate API assets.

Many organizations adopt a Center of Excellence (CoE), a central body that's sole job is to ensure that APIs are built to meet the needs of the larger enterprise to make them genuinely market-driven, providing guidance on how to meet the needs of the target user base.

But it all starts with an API portal and the underlying ecosystem citizen developers need to innovate.

With its robust tools and features for non-developers (and developers), all of your APIs can be consolidated within one user-friendly ecosystem for enhanced adoption rates and API usage. It's a must to provide citizen developers with the tools they are accustomed to in their everyday lives. These are social people who want to interact with other like-minded individuals. They want to share their ideas, help each other succeed, and most importantly, they will help you succeed if you provide them with the ecosystem to promote innovation.

Achieve Internet is a premium agency specializing in developing API portals for organizations of all industries. Our Apiboost product is the engine behind many of the world's largest companies to accelerate their digital transformation - and yours can be next.

If you want to learn more about leveraging API portals to facilitate citizen development, reach out to our team today to schedule a free consultation.

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Ron Huber

Ron Huber is the CEO and co-founder of Achieve Internet. He's an experienced senior executive with over 15 years managing and leading software teams in the online media, Internet, and software development space.

About the Author

How Citizen Developers Will Impact the API Marketplace in 2022 and Beyond

With the workforce in today's digital age, the distinction between developers and non-developers is fading. More and more platforms...

Published: Feb 05, 2022

5 min read

By: Ron Huber

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