Is the “Citizen Developer” the Next Frontier for Driving Business Productivity?

On a flight home from a recent business trip to Seattle, I read the Gartner report, “Emerging Technology Analysis: Cloud Application Platform as a Service in Financial Services.” The report focuses on what Gartner refers to as “Citizen Developers,” folks who develop business applications outside of IT.  It got me thinking about the types of people in the business world:

  • those great at writing code and developing apps and
  • those who may not know a thing about writing code, but who know about business.

Those who know business are equipped with tools that allow those who know code to develop extremely powerful and useful applications. Getting the two groups to collaborate could really change the business application game.

In my view, the financial services segment was the focus of the Gartner report, but one can assume that its findings would apply in large part to other enterprises where Line of Business owners have application development needs. The number of organizations where this is true must be quite large. Equally as large are the number of small business owners who know their profession inside and out, but can only dream about the perfect business productivity app.

I recall a conversation I had with my brother a number of years ago. He is a small business owner and physical therapist who, at the time, was setting up a paperless appointments and treatment notes program.  Although he’d purchased the best products on the market, they didn’t satisfy the needs of his business. He told me, “I wish I were a computer programmer. I’d write the perfect program.” My father in-law, also a small business owner and HVAC contractor, expressed a similar sentiment for his business application needs.

With the emergence of so many Application Platform-as-a-Service capabilities, I believe (and so does Gartner) that the “Citizen Developer” has the power to drive business productivity to the next level.  The combination of new tools and cloud will allow folks like my brother and father in-law not only to build an app that serves their needs, but also monetize their ideas by selling these capabilities to other physical therapists and HVAC contractors. If these two groups of business people—those who know code and those who know business—do more collaborating, I think the next three to five years will be really exciting.

What industries have you seen that could greatly benefit from Citizen Developers?
Are you working on any interesting application ideas and are you interested in finding others with similar passions?
Don Parente Technology Strategy and Chief Architect Director AT&T About Don