Inside Advanced Scale Challenges|Tuesday, June 19, 2018
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Make Way For ‘Citizen Developers’ 


Harried DevOps teams are getting help from colleagues with no formal training and little experience in programming, an emerging class of workers dubbed "citizen developers" who are expected to make their mark on enterprises over the next two years.

Market tracker 451 Research notes in a vendor-sponsored report addressing the rise of custom applications that fully 82 percent of the companies it surveyed report that citizen developers are becoming more important to their operations. As software underpins most business processes, the researcher declares: "Data is the fuel for this explosion in customization, while intelligence is the oxygen, and decentralized work flow creation is the spark."

Nearly 60 percent of all custom enterprise apps—that is, applications designed and built by a business to cater to its specific requirements—are being created outside of the IT department, the market researcher found. Of those applications, 30 percent were the work of employees with no formal programming training.

The rise of the citizen developer comes as DevOps teams struggle to keep pace with the shorter development and deployment cycles for distributed enterprise applications. Another issue is the growing number of workflows and business processes—often measured in the thousands—covering everything from product development to human resources.

The analyst concludes that lack of business process customization leaves many companies vulnerable to stalled digitization efforts. Half of firms surveyed said they have deployed fewer than 10 custom apps, 451 Research found in a report commissioned by Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) custom apps subsidiary FileMaker.

"Custom apps have often been pigeon-holed as being only for mission-critical or niche processes for which there isn’t an off-the-shelf alternative, or for when companies don’t have the budget to pay for one," the report noted.

Along with cost, other key barriers to custom app development include time requirements for already overworked DevOps departments.

With more than one-third of respondents placing the management of data growth at the top of their IT agenda, the researcher asserts that the time is ripe for "decentralized citizen development." The movement is being driven in part by a growing tool chest. "As technologies become more intuitive, flexible and intelligent companies are rethinking collaboration, business processes and strategy."

The trick for vendors such as FileMaker will be convincing companies with tight IT budgets of a rapid return on the investment in the form of streamlined workflows and more custom apps.

The report also notes that decentralization of development creates a new set of security and governance issues. Among the challenges presented by the movement toward citizen developers is "decentralizing application creation while ensuring there is a company-wide governance framework to maintain consistency in security and controls."

Failure to do so, it seems, might lead to another form of "shadow IT" that has created another set of challenges for companies with mobile workforces.


About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).

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