Citizen Developer

A look behind "No-Code"

A look behind "No-Code"

Izabela Sosnowska
5 Sept 2023
5 min read
Choosing the Right Path: Navigating Digital Transformation with Citizen Development and Low-Code Solutions

The relentless march of digitalization has become a cornerstone strategy for numerous companies, requiring employees to adapt to the swiftly changing landscape. However, the scarcity of available IT specialists in the job market and the time-consuming nature of training non-technical staff often result in resource shortages across various business sectors. To bridge this gap, many software providers have risen to the challenge by crafting user-friendly interfaces that streamline coding tasks through intuitive drag-and-drop functionality. This transformation empowers employees with the tools to automate intricate business processes without the need for conventional coding expertise, effectively anointing them as "citizen developers" (Learn more at: Why IT is not always about coding). Yet, despite the emergence of these no-code and low-code solutions, the demand for proficient IT specialists persists. This raises intriguing questions: Why does this demand endure? What are the benefits and drawbacks of these solutions? And, how does the interplay between code and no-code solutions foster mutual advantages for all stakeholders involved?

Time and Independence: Striking a Balance for Sustainable Solutions

In the complex realm of business processes, securing a spot in the IT department's queue for implementing changes can be a daunting task, often requiring a waiting period of one quarter or more. Consequently, even the most promising business ideas must patiently traverse a labyrinth of approvals, planning, and development. Months might pass before new functionality sees the light of day. Complications arise when adjustments are needed, setting off a cycle of repetitive frustration on the business side and stress on the IT end, leaving both parties unsatisfied.Requests from business units encompass not only major overhauls to corporate systems but also involve applications for tracking employee satisfaction, collecting customer feedback, managing approval workflows, and automating data-driven notifications. While these tasks might not challenge seasoned software developers, they demand time to comprehend business logic and target audiences. This juncture is where low-code solutions shine brightest. Through intuitive graphical interfaces, business users can precisely define the files, tables, or systems they wish to interconnect, configuring notifications and forms for further processing. As citizen developers emerge, they gain control over their creations, independent from other organizational units. Meanwhile, IT departments gain breathing room to tackle more intricate and rewarding challenges.

Unleashing AI and Autonomy in the Corporate Landscape

In the realm of AI and machine learning within large corporations, data scientists frequently collaborate with business teams, data engineers, and others for insights, data preparation, and model deployment. No-code platforms streamline this intricate dance, simplifying steps through drag-and-drop modules and guided model selection. While certain sensitive domains (e.g., healthcare, safety-related products) require caution, this shift in responsibilities can expedite model deployment and hypothesis testing before engaging other departments (Source: Levity).

Embracing Independence While Staying Tech-Savvy

A thought-provoking article, "Why You Might Not Need an IT Department Anymore" (Source: Forbes), challenges us to grasp the intricate IT infrastructure underpinning business processes. While fostering self-sufficiency is crucial, complete dependence on a solitary IT department could be counterproductive. The pivotal role of IT departments remains undeniable, but their capacity to handle numerous tasks is limited. Prioritising strategic areas of business is paramount, often diverting them from building applications for internal needs. However, IT specialists possess an unparalleled system-wide perspective, capable of guiding burgeoning citizen developers. Embracing self-efficacy to construct bespoke solutions democratises access to IT resources, even while acknowledging the role of IT departments (Source: Computerwoche ).

Navigating Dependencies and Autonomy

Citizen development ushers in both independence and reliance, manifesting in different dimensions. On one hand, business units gain autonomy, reducing reliance on constant IT support. On the other hand, the limited universality of solutions, constrained by specific low-code platform providers, could create a new form of dependence. The risk of price hikes or product discontinuation looms when medium-sized businesses integrate external software. Oligopolies in the IT sphere (e.g., Google, Microsoft, AWS, social media platforms) could adversely affect businesses that depend on their technologies, prompting higher costs or service limitations. Simultaneously, tech startups face a daunting survival challenge with 63% of them bankrupting within first 5 years (Source: Explodingtopics). Smaller players may lack the resources and expertise necessary for customer management, legal matters, marketing, and operational management, amplifying the risk of failure. External factors, like the Silicon Valley Bank's recent bankruptcy (Source: CNBC), can have cascading impacts. Striking a balance between dependence and independence encapsulates the essence of the debate surrounding low-code platforms. Crafting prudent software provider choices becomes imperative, as creating proprietary solutions might prove unrealistic or cost-ineffective.

Safeguarding Within: Navigating Security in Citizen Development

The bedrock of security lies with the software provider. Imposing trust in a chosen low-code platform is a fundamental step, ensuring it is not only secure but steadfast in safeguarding the confidentiality and integrity of sensitive corporate data. Scrutinising the provider's security protocols, certifications, and data handling practices is essential for establishing credibility.

1. Preventing Employee Data Leakage:
While empowering employees to contribute to development, establishing stringent security measures is paramount. Seamless integration of access controls, data encryption, and user authentication mechanisms towards unauthorised data leaks beyond approved boundaries.

2. Fortifying Against Hacking Attempts:
The allure of low-code platforms beckons both seasoned developers and non-IT specialists, making them prime targets for cyberattacks. Bolstering cybersecurity practices, including regular vulnerability assessments, robust firewall configurations, and intrusion detection systems, is imperative to towards potential threats.

3. Fostering Responsible Technology Use:
Nurturing non-IT specialists to harness low-code tools mandates an emphasis on responsible usage. Robust training programs imbue employees with best practices, ethical guidelines, and insights into potential pitfalls, minimising security risks while aligning technology use with business objectives.

4. Mitigating Disarray Risks:
The allure of rapid development through low-code solutions must be balanced against potential chaos. Though software providers offer templates, companies must enforce guidelines promoting structured development. Oversight and reviews are vital to identifying and rectifying complex or disorganised solutions.

In the dynamic landscape of modern business, digitalisation is steering companies towards adaptable strategies, prompting the emergence of citizen developers empowered by intuitive low-code platforms. These platforms streamline business processes, bridging the gap between IT specialists and non-technical staff, while also accelerating AI deployment. Striking a balance between autonomy and reliance, this transformation urges a reevaluation of IT department roles, necessitating prudent software choices to avert dependency risks. Amid this evolution, security remains paramount, from trusting software providers to preventing data leakage and fortifying against hacking attempts. Responsible technology usage and structured development round out the picture, steering businesses towards a digitally transformed future that values innovation, self-sufficiency, and stringent security measures.

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