Where is technology headed next? All signs point to citizen developers   

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The world as we know it won’t look recognizable a decade from now. Why? It has yet to be created. So much of what matters to us, at this moment in time, was only just invented and didn’t exist even a few years ago. Humanity’s ability to innovate has been increasing at a rapid rate and will only continue to accelerate. 

Applications for products and services are expected to continue to evolve. Everything people buy and consume will have a digital element and the line between physical and virtual will continue to blur. An example of this is what we are currently experiencing with electric cars. Today, an electric car is more than just a vehicle, it is an operating system that takes you where you need to go, and this evolution will go much further. As a society, we now have the chance to build what will truly matter to us most as we move forward. What comes next? How are we going to continue to elevate and advance as a society at a level that outpaces our current evolution of development?

The answer: citizen developers. 

What is a citizen developer? 

By now, it’s safe to assume that almost everyone has likely been affected in one way or another by the Great Resignation, whether from an employee leaving their own job, an employer who cannot fill vacant positions, or an overworked employee forced to take on more than one role. In November 2021, the Labor Department reported a record 4.51 million workers left their jobs. However, this turnover has yet to show signs of slowing. In fact, a new record was set in March 2022, with a reported 4.53 million people leaving their jobs. And IT departments across America have not been immune to this new crisis we are facing. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the shortage of software engineers in the U.S. alone will increase to almost 1.2 million by 2026. 

This brings me to the citizen developer. This is simply a person with little to no coding experience who can create their own applications through the use of low-code or no-code technology. However, I want to be very clear, the role of the citizen developer is not intended to take the jobs of traditional developers in an IT department. In fact, this is quite the opposite. They free overworked developers’ time and energy to focus on the job they were hired to do. Which, in light of the current state of the job market, is more important now than ever before. 

Democratization of access: Literacy 2.0

In the future, literacy will no longer be associated with just reading and writing, it will also include application development. This means that citizen developers will be much more commonplace, which will, in turn, accelerate the ability to create the world we, as a society, truly want for ourselves.

A citizen developer, armed with low-code or no-code skills, can have an idea, or come up with a way of doing something differently, but they won’t need anyone else to help implement their ideas. They can personally take on the task. Which ultimately ups the likelihood of the action actually happening. 

It’s also important to note that, according to Gartner, 80% of enterprises will have policies in place for citizen developers by 2024. Which cannot happen soon enough. Not only does this help support overworked IT departments, but also the tech industry has been accused of lacking diversity and we all know more progress needs to be made. 

Democratizing access to this technology, to the point where it feels as common as reading and writing, will also help create a real opportunity to establish a workforce in tech that will be as diverse as the populations it serves. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, women make up only 25% of computer science-related jobs. In the U.S. tech sector, Blacks hold 7% of tech jobs, Hispanics hold 8% of jobs, and Asian Americans hold 20% of jobs. This needs to change, and it starts by creating an affordable and accessible path to a career in low-code for all individuals, regardless of background, experience or education. 

Organizations such as mine are tackling this issue by offering scholarships to become certified in low-code at no cost to the participant, and helping with career placement. Our hope is that more companies will follow suit.  

Citizen developers creating positive advancements for the betterment of humanity 

Changes and adaptations regarding environmental, social and governance can also be more productive once more citizen developers get on board. The rationale is that often stakeholders will have conversations about problems, and even come up with ideas for potential solutions, yet they often go nowhere. Which is not for lack of interest or skill, but lack of bandwidth. So, despite the potential benefits of the result, IT departments are simply stretched too thin to take on the additional implementation. 

However, a citizen developer can immediately run with a great idea. This allows for faster engagement from the beginning of the conversation all the way through to the implementation of a solution. They can personally take on the task and create the change they want to see in the world.

The idea is that simplifying the effort of application build and software creation will free a wealth of human energy that can be put to work thinking, innovating, defining and aligning on solutions that can truly create big changes for the betterment of humanity.  

If it’s true that we have not invented much of the world we need, then it stands to reason that we are only scratching the surface of what the future truly holds. Citizen developers are the key to accelerated access to the world we all want for ourselves and the generations to come. 

Pavel Zamudio-Ramirez is chief customer officer at Appian.
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