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How the citizen developer movement is driving digital transformation

digital transformation
(Image credit: Image Credit: Chombosan / Shutterstock)

In 2020 nearly every aspect of life has been upended, on both an organizational and individual level. Consumer behavior has shifted dramatically as we adapted to lockdowns and social distancing regulations and, to keep up, organizations have relied on software and hardware technologies to transform and modify business operations at rapid speed. Digital transformation (DX) is no longer a buzzword but a lifeline for thousands of businesses across the UK and around the world - organizations across a broad range of industries must implement the right technology to maximize performance outcomes and overall user experience. As a result, executive teams have had to turn inwards to reevaluate their DX plans to keep up with today’s digitalized world. 

Covid-19 has caused a major shift in organizational processes, and as digital transformation becomes the norm, teams need to assess how best to scope, scale and lead these initiatives. This is no easy feat, especially as many organizations were still very early on in the DX roadmap - a recent Gartner study revealed that whilst 87 percent of businesses acknowledge that digital transformation is a priority, only 40 percent of organizations have brought digital initiatives to scale. Lack of resources and budget, as well as limited access to a skilled workforce are key barriers affecting an organization's ability to digitally transform. Software developers, who were traditionally leading the charge on digital transformation projects, are now a rare and expensive commodity, especially for smaller businesses. In fact, they are on average one of the most highly paid employees, with the software development engineers earning around £43,597 in the UK.

The rise of the citizen developers 

To combat the skills shortage various government initiatives have been put into action, including the Lifetime Skills Guarantee program. This has been bolstered by private investment as larger companies seek to fix the problem internally - Zurich for example recently announced it is investing £1m to upskill and retain 3,000 UK employees. While important and necessary, these initiatives represent the long term solution. Retraining staff isn’t quick and simple, it requires investment from both sides of the employee/employer relationship. Unfortunately this still leaves many organizations with an immediate need. 

This now begs the question, what more can be done so organizations can digitally transform and succeed quickly? The answer is the citizen developer movement. 

But first, what does the citizen developer movement actually mean? The citizen developer movement is fundamental for any business wanting to achieve the agility and flexibility offered by technology. Citizen developers are individuals who can create business applications and services within an organization using low-code/ no-code software. These low-code platforms offer solutions that are suitable for the full range of technical skills sets, so anyone at any skill level can implement the technology needed to help their business succeed. Through minimal training, citizen developers can design and build applications which are tailored to businesses needs helping them adapt to changing customer behavior and maximize performance. 

As the demand for digital transformation continues to increase into 2021, the citizen developer movement will only gain pace, and fast. By 2024, it is projected that 74 percent of organizations will be using at least four low-code development tools for app development and citizen developer initiatives. Citizen developers are now the key to democratizing the software development processes and those businesses that act fast and embrace this low complexity software strategy will be the ones that build a sustainable, agile business practice and gain a competitive edge, all while saving money that can be invested more strategically elsewhere.  

No code/low code/no stress 

As consumer behavior alters in response to national lockdowns and restrictions, all businesses, big and small, must acclimate. To not do so is dangerous - we are already seeing the impact on retailers that have not been able to digitize fast enough in the face of adversity. Primark who initially resisted the shift to online, as the owner feared it wouldn’t work for its business model. However as lockdowns came into force and non-essential shops shut, Primark realized the benefits of an online presence, and now offers Primark essentials through Amazon.  Businesses investing in innovation are delivering and rolling out technology that will benefit them in the long term, not just during the pandemic - whether it is the expansion of retail robots or restaurants introducing at-home meal kits which can be ordered online, organizations have shown the endless possibilities when adopting tech.   

This type of innovation can be daunting especially for those businesses who have not yet previously engaged with technology on this scale. However, by utilizing low-code platforms, businesses can ensure they have a much needed online presence whilst offering digital products which suit the customer. Organizations no longer need to worry about hiring a skilled worker or learning about code, as the tech and coding elements are already developed behind the scenes. Using visual interfaces and drag-and-drop style solutions, companies can create apps and services which can keep up with our rapidly evolving environment. Low-code platforms provide all organizations with the ability to innovate and create impactful digital products. 

What more needs to be done? 

Whilst organizations take important steps to implement the necessary technology for business development and success, unfortunately, this is not enough. Ensuring that this technology works flawlessly is now vital, as consumers are becoming increasingly impatient and expect nothing but a flawless customer experience, at all times. This means - fast loading times and seamlessly performing applications on all platforms and operating systems.

As a result, technology is now interlinked with business performance, as faulty technology which causes any delay or creates an inconvenience for the consumer, has the potential to do long-lasting damage to the businesses’ reputation. For example, just this month when investors rushed on to key trading sites to cash in on the new Covid-19 vaccine, trade sites crashed as they could not handle the unexpected peak in users. This led to a number of unhappy customers as well as caused a negative PR-splash for the companies involved, further damaging potential customer and investor relationships. To prevent any glitches or software bugs from occurring and to ensure platforms can handle increased traffic, software testing is now a crucial step in any organization's digital transformation process. It is critical to test the app at all stages during development and post-development, to identify any problems with the software early on. 

Traditionally, many organizations have done this through manual testing. This is a responsibility which traditionally comes down to software development teams and is often a slow and expensive process. Similar to how low-code platforms function, software testing can now be automated, as testing platforms utilize AI to automate test execution at all stages of software development. Organizations can now implement end-to-end testing quickly and automatically without the need to hire software developers. Through continuous testing organizations are able identify any flaws within the software quickly and optimize resources and release new and updated software faster, ensuring they are keeping up with changing customer demands.  

Digital transformation can no longer be put on the back burner. Democratizing the software development process through the citizen developer movement and low-code/no-code platforms is a vital step needed to ensure companies can implement innovative apps and services and gain a competitive edge. Companies need to implement flawless technology and software, as without it, they won’t survive. This isn’t a trend - it's the future.

Gareth Smith, CTO, Eggplant