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Introduction to citizen development

Non-IT users can create apps that can reduce backlogs and increase efficiency, with guardrails, at scale.
What is citizen development?

What is citizen development?

According to the Project Management Institute, a citizen developer is "someone who can build applications without coding knowledge, but usually with the support of IT". A citizen developer may work either as an individual 'maker' or as a member of a squad or fusion team, helping organizations to streamline application development and improve efficiency while maintaining governance and avoiding "shadow IT".

Citizen development vs. professional development

Citizen development

Citizen developers are business process experts who build back-office workflows without coding knowledge on a platform that is sanctioned and supported by IT. Empowering business people in this way means faster delivery, more innovation, and higher rates of application adoption. Effective governance eliminates risk traditionally associated with ‘Shadow IT.’

Professional development

Skilled developers in IT use low-code tools to build complex and mission critical enterprise solutions. They may also build reusable components that can be assembled by citizen developers, provide coaching, and collaborate with citizen developers in fusion teams.

Citizen development powers future-focused business

From streamlining workflows to reducing backlogs, an effective citizen development program empowers business to develop apps that respond to nuanced needs, quickly. It starts with executive buy-in, spurs collaboration, and fosters a culture of innovation and growth, with governance. Add IT oversight and citizen development is a game-changer.

Move at the speed of change. Compliance included.

  • Empower citizen developers to speed up traditional development timelines while reducing IT backlogs. When done well and with effective governance, a citizen development program enables fast and frequent releases and scalable processes.
  • Because business can lean in to build workflow solutions, citizen development empowers and engages fusion teams while fostering a culture of innovation and cross-functional collaboration.
  • A flexible low code platform utilized by citizen developers allows enterprise companies to stay agile, outmaneuver competition, and meet customers where they are, all while avoiding 'shadow IT'.
  • Companies that enable citizen development programs achieve fast development turnaround times and nimble processes, allowing IT to scale efficiently across platforms, from web to mobile and email to chat. All with confidence, compliance, and effective governance. 
Why use citizen development?

Pave the way for citizen developers

Continual transformation is key for growth at scale. Empower your workforce to unlock agility.

How does citizen development work?

Successful citizen development has three key components: processes, people, and technology. Start with executive buy-in and aligning business and IT. Next, create a cross-functional community to set best practices and provide coaching. Finally, pick low-code software with essentials like transparency and governance.

How does citizen development work?

Key citizen developer skills

While these builders may not be coding experts, they still require certain critical skills to become successful citizen developers. Citizen developers must be masters in:

Creativity and problem-solving

Citizen developers should excel at thinking outside the box. Their ability to address challenges creatively contributes to effective application development.


Today’s business environment is fast paced. Flexibility allows citizen developers to handle changing requirements and ensure that applications remain relevant.

Collaboration and communication

Citizen developers must thrive on collaboration. Clear communication ensures that ideas flow, leading to business-aligned application development.

Understanding of governance

Citizen developers need a profound understanding of governance. This allows them to contribute to a secure and compliant technological landscape, aligning their innovations with organizational goals.

Analytical thinking

Citizen developers should be comfortable analyzing requirements and understanding the nuances of business processes. This analytical thinking enables them to craft applications that precisely meet organizational needs.

Challenges of establishing a citizen development program

Challenges of establishing a citizen development program

While the benefits of establishing a successful citizen development program make it worthwhile, it comes with a few challenges:

  • Executive buy-in and alignment: Securing executive buy-in and aligning business and IT goals is a foundational challenge. Without strong support at the top, the program may struggle to gain traction and achieve its full potential.
  • Building a cross-functional community: Creating a collaborative community that spans different functions is essential. Challenges may arise in establishing effective communication and best practices within this diverse group.
  • Selecting the right low-code software: Choosing low-code software is critical. Ensuring transparency, governance, and essential features is challenging but essential for a successful citizen development program that avoids the trappings of “shadow IT.”

Addressing these challenges head-on will pave the way for a robust citizen development program that contributes to a culture of innovation and efficiency.

Why is there a growing need for citizen developers?

Why is there a growing need for citizen developers?

The escalating demand for citizen developers is a strategic response to business evolution. Their role expedites development, fostering innovation and cross-functional collaboration. Citizen development programs provide agility, allowing companies to outmaneuver competition and scale across platforms efficiently. By embracing flexible low-code platforms, organizations can engage citizen developers to meet diverse customer needs while avoiding “shadow IT.”

The result? Accelerated growth, competitive advantage, and confidence in compliance and governance.

Resources on citizen development

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Customer Success Story: Navy Federal Credit Union

See how Navy Federal Credit Union saved 300,000 hours with a Pega-centered citizen developer program

Frequently Asked Questions about citizen development

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A citizen developer is a non-IT stakeholder who creates new applications using low-code development sanctioned and supported by corporate IT. With nuanced business insights and IT coaching, they can help get the apps right the first time¬ by eliminating back-and-forth friction with developers.

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Project managers are often the ideal citizen developers because they understand their teams’ needs and pain points and can apply their strategic skills to building more efficient workflows. The best citizen development programs start with stakeholder buy-in and cross-functional collaboration—both of which fit well with project-manager skills.

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A citizen developer doesn’t need a background in coding, IT, or development. Ideally, they have the motivation to build workflows, an interest in learning low-code development, nuanced business insights, and a collaborative spirit. Citizen developers are receptive to coaching, excited to experiment and solution-minded.

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Citizen development allows enterprises to develop solutions, become more efficient and meet customers where they are. Because it empowers non-IT stakeholders and features frequent releases and updates, it frees up IT to do deep work while remaining agile, responsive, and responsible. Business leans in, IT offers guidance, and growth accelerates.

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The beauty of low-code development is that there are no background requirements. Low-code developers don’t need to have experience in coding. What they do need is a solutions mindset, knowledge of their business needs, and a willingness to learn how to build apps. The best low-code developers thrive with collaboration, community, and feedback.

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