The importance of the citizen developer movement in a world driven by digital

GARETH SMITH

Society is driven by technology, which transforms the way businesses work to maximize performance, outcomes, and overall user experience. But never has this been truer than in the current business environment. For the past few months, all business leaders have come under immense pressure to operate in a digital world regardless of industry. Each turning inwards to reevaluate their digital transformation plans to keep up with the world we now find ourselves in. The change across sectors in a short amount of time has been staggering, with McKinsey & Company reporting that both business and digital consumer adoption jumped five years ahead in roughly two months, as a result of COVID-19.

Despite the UK’s growing digital skills gap, businesses are now finally realizing how essential these skills are to all parts of organizational operations, especially when it comes to remote working capabilities. Where before a long list of varied factors such as budget, buy-in, and a lack of in-house talent were holding businesses back from implementing digital projects, when faced with the possibility of operations coming to a crashing halt, these push-backs suddenly became less complex to solve. Almost overnight, business performance suddenly became tethered to technology performance.

As businesses navigate a highly digital world, the technology must perform to a high level with reliability and speed being necessities. Still, it should also provide users with a quality experience. Since digital services usage is here to stay, perfecting the user experience should be high on the list of priorities.

However, this is still very complex for many, especially as mass rapid digitally transforming has thrown up and intensified other problems that now need solutions – namely the lack of available technical talent in the UK, specifically in software development. Businesses without in-house skilled talent may approach this problem with a recruitment drive – but this isn’t possible for everyone; the tech recruitment landscape is very competitive. It will require a lot of proactivity from the HR department and offer a high salary to attract workers away from their present jobs.

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However, the tech landscape is nothing if not innovative; if there isn’t an obvious solution, one can be crafted. As such, an alternative way to combat the shortage of skilled talent requires an entirely new approach to software development – a low-code/no-code approach.

What is the citizen developer movement?

The citizen developer movement helps businesses develop automation solutions faster so they can power productivity and drive efficiency without the need for highly skilled personnel. Low-code/no-code platforms make it easy for non-technical users to develop automated solutions to complex or time-consuming workflows because they do not need an understanding of complicated programming languages or protocols – hence the term low-code/no-code, it pretty much says what it does on the tin.

As organizations look to boost their digital agility and enhance their developer talent without hiring overpaid workers, low-code/no-code platforms will provide domain experts with the power to develop their solutions. Rather than brief dev teams and hope their requirements are understood, they can create the app themselves. By harnessing non-developers, businesses can up skill their current team who already have the business knowledge, thereby significantly reducing costs and resources. Ultimately, it allows companies to develop solutions that exactly meet their needs with no compromise required – and quickly.

Researchers acknowledge a significant increase in their use in recent years, and it’s a trend that’s forecast to continue – Gartner predicts that low-code application development will constitute over 65% of application development activity by 2024.

Ensuring quality is not compromised

While citizen development has its advantages, there are concerns as well. While no-code/low-code platforms provide the tools to create apps, businesses need to manage the quality and maintenance requirements of the solutions developed, which can be challenging to do without proper knowledge.

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Developing a new app is much easier than maintaining it – a single bug on one device is likely to have a knock-on effect on every device in the chain. Software testing is a strategic resource for optimizing the customer experience and tracking how technical factors related to successful business outcomes. It’s essential to test an app during its development to ensure it delivers what is required and working consistently and as expected. Testing and maintenance requirements fall entirely on the developer team. While manual testing is a solution, it is slow and expensive, so intelligently testing the full customer experience is critical.

Bringing automated testing into citizen development 

Similar to how low-code/no-code platforms for development have evolved, so have low-code/no-code platforms for automated testing. For example, Eggplant’s Digital Automation Intelligence (DAI) product eliminates the need for traditionally siloed systems by testing the full digital experience against business outcomes. This enables companies to optimize resources, release new and updated software faster, and deliver higher quality software and applications.

Its no-code approach uses graphical flows to define (model) the landscape we want to test. Its low code approach uses an English-like language allowing users to write automation snippets that describe how they want each object to behave. The company’s platform-agnostic approach allows for testing any device, OS, or technology at any layer, and enables businesses to modernize their testing approach without adding additional budget or resources.

Citizen development is an exciting movement in the digital transformation agenda that offers powerful opportunities to drive innovation and improve productivity. However, to utilize all of its advantages, the lifespans of citizen developed apps have to be maximized. The way to do that is to bring automated testing tools into the citizen development environment. This will take the citizen developer movement to the next level.

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As we step into the new normal, it is imperative to make sure new technology and applications work correctly and identify failures early on. No-code and/or low-code platforms allow teams to focus on delivering a high-quality experience, consistent, at all interactions and on every operating system, device, and platform through end-to-end test automation.