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citizen developer program

The 3 key components to building a citizen developer program

Emily Calo, Log in to subscribe to the Blog

The shortage of developers is a widespread problem

Everyone needs software, and everyone needs it now. It’s why low-code solutions abound, and Gartner predicts that by 2023, the number of active citizen developers at large enterprises will be at least four times the number of professional developers. If only the solution were as simple as adopting low code!

Consider a business user who feels their requests to IT have been repeatedly backlogged. They go online and find a free low-code tool they can download to build out a solution themselves. It’s going to help them get their work done more quickly, as well as take the burden off their IT team. What could be the harm?

If you work in IT, you are probably cringing by now (or at least rolling your eyes knowingly). By attempting to circumvent perceived IT bottlenecks on their own, these users often cause more problems than they solve. When users turn to disparate solutions to solve problems in silos, IT loses the ability to keep track of these projects, keep everything compliant with company policies, and even reduce redundancies between work. This business user is not a citizen developer, but rather what the industry calls “shadow IT.”

How do you prevent shadow IT? How do you scale low code efficiently? How do you manage and maintain it all? Low-code tools alone are not enough. To bridge the gap in developer resources and successfully implement low-code initiatives across an enterprise, a citizen development program must be properly established and supported.

Pave the way for citizen developers

To achieve true transformation, you need to the right people, processes, and technology.

The three keys to a successful citizen developer program

A true citizen developer is someone outside IT who creates applications for their own business needs using low-code technology that is supported by IT. With this support, they can stay within guardrails set by the company and help solve problems, without also creating new ones.

As long as a business user has the right background – an interest in software and technology, deep knowledge of the business processes in their area of work, and a strong network at the company – it can be easy for them to become an effective citizen developer if the right program is in place. But what does the right program look like?

A successful citizen development program will encompass three key components: processes, people, and technology. Let’s walk through how this could work for your business:


  • Make sure you have strong executive sponsorship. It is key that leadership at your enterprise understands the importance of and supports the establishment of a citizen developer program.

  • Similarly, make sure you have broad cross-functional support. Namely, that business and IT are on the same page and committed to aligning on the program as well.

  • Level-set with the enterprise IT team and/or the team that will be leading this program. A commitment to establishing low barriers to entry will be key to getting citizen developers involved (too much red tape and you’ll scare them off); and lightweight governance over the projects with automated guardrail enforcement is essential to reducing the burden on IT teams.


  • Establish a Community of Practice (CoP) that starts with the program leaders or Governance Board. The group should consist of a variety of stakeholders and subject-matter experts (SMEs) who can set best practices and guidance for any app development initiatives at the company.

  • The CoP will extend to the Makers – or business users who build and maintain apps that help streamline and automate the work they own – as well as the coaches, who have more coding knowledge and can help them at any point in the process.

  • Provide information on where your CoP can get educated, to better equip the citizen development network at your enterprise with expertise on how to use low code as well as how the program is being managed. This should include self-service training provided by your IT-sanctioned low-code, app building software provider. For example, Pega offers many trainings, including the self-service Low-code App Builder course in Pega Academy.


  • The final key is of course the low-code software that you choose to sanction. And with the right software, like the low-code Pega Platform™, much of the legwork is done for you. Pega provides the guidance you need to establish your program, as well as the technology that enables anyone to build or modify apps quickly and easily – and then scale them across the enterprise.

  • The first half of the technology puzzle is finding an inclusive low-code authoring environment, like Pega App Studio, which allows for users to build great, functional apps fast. It includes visual authoring tools, prebuilt templates, and world-class case management technology, as well as the ability to easily collaborate between teams and receive coaching and guidance on the fly.

  • The second half of the puzzle is more difficult to find but even more essential. In order for a citizen development program to scale, you need a tool like Pega App Factory to manage and govern it all. It provides one comprehensive dashboard for all your apps, where program leaders can set guardrails, define reusable app components, and manage all app development initiatives.

Success will catalyze further success

As more business users become trained citizen developers, your Community of Practice will grow cross-functionally. Networks of SMEs and coaches will broaden, including citizen developers with enough experience to become coaches themselves. Apps will become blueprints for future apps, that can be adapted for other departments or processes, constantly shortening time to market.

Hear from Pega customer Deutsche Bahn, who successfully built a citizen developer approach following these very steps with Pega. They report: " We gain more flexibility, increase the speed of digitalization, improve acceptance, gain visible business impact and reach a scalability which we would never have achieved with dedicated developers."

Pega is not your everyday low-code solution, but rather a part of a holistic, enterprise-grade approach to successful low-code and citizen development; an approach that provides end-to-end support without complicating the citizen developer’s job or compromising the end-user's experience. And with the right plan, backed by the right technology in place at your enterprise, establishing a successful program should be instantly beneficial to all teams involved.

Learn more:


Product Area: Platform Topic: Low-Code Development

About the Author

As a Product Marketing Manager for low-code application development at Pega, Emily Calo helps enterprise clients understand how the right low-code approach enables them to adapt quickly and consistently build apps faster, smarter, and at scale.

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