How Citizen Developers May Help Fill a Looming $8 Trillion Tech Skills Gap

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The rise of citizen developers is reshaping software development, allowing non-coders to create applications using low-code/no-code platforms. They bring creativity and innovation, streamline application development, and lead to cost-effective solutions. However, organizations need to address challenges related to security, quality assurance, and resource shortages.

In the ever-changing world of technology, there is a pressing issue of a shortage of skilled talent, projected to reach around $85.2 million by 2030, which in turn threatens over $8 trillion in lost revenue.

The growing scarcity of skilled software developers, despite the increasing dependence on software in business, is a critical issue. However, amidst this challenge, a new trend called “citizen developers” is emerging.

Imagine a world where creating powerful software does not require coding expertise. Instead, individuals from diverse backgrounds, driven by creativity and innovation, lead in software development.

This unconventional trend is altering the way businesses conceive, develop, and implement applications, with citizen developers utilizing low-code/no-code platforms playing a crucial role in this evolution.

Citizen Developers: The Non-Traditional Software Developers

Citizen developers represent the dynamic shift in the software development industry. They are individuals who engage in software development without a formal coding background yet possess the ability to create applications with little to no coding knowledge.

These citizen developers come from fields like marketing, finance, and healthcare, bringing fresh perspectives to the development process.


Their primary motivations are finding quick solutions to business problems and innovating within their domains. Their creativity, problem-solving skills, and adaptability allow them to excel in this non-traditional role.

In recent years, the rise of low-code and no-code platforms allow non-coders to create customized software solutions without knowing the difference between a C++ and a C#.

As a result, the software development environment is being reshaped, democratizing the barriers to entry and unlocking a more diverse group of individuals to participate actively in application creation.

Citizen Developers and the Impact on the Software Development Industry

The implications of the rise of citizen developers go beyond just businesses. It is having a broader impact on the software development industry. These non-traditional developers are substantially transforming how applications are conceptualized, created, and deployed, marking a significant shift in the software development discipline. This democratization opens doors to novel perspectives and ideas, injecting innovation and diversity into the industry.

One significant impact of this trend on businesses is the cost-effective and rapid application development provided by citizen developers. These developers streamline the process by utilizing low-code and no-code platforms, eliminating the need for extensive development teams and costly coding resources.

As an example, Amazon’s Risk and Treasury department, through their citizen developers, achieved significant time savings by automating numerous financial processes, ultimately reducing the workload by 100,000 hours.

The relationship between professional and citizen developers is also evolving in the broader software development industry. They collaborate in a symbiotic manner and take advantage of each other’s unique strengths. While experienced developers contribute their expertise to complex projects, citizen developers drive innovation through rapid prototyping and responding to business needs. This collaboration accelerates the development cycle and enhances creativity.

However, it is essential to acknowledge the challenges, particularly regarding security and quality assurance. While citizen developers bring agility and speed to the development process, they may need more knowledge of robust security practices and rigorous quality assurance. Therefore, organizations must maintain vigilant oversight, provide training, and establish clear guidelines to ensure the safety and reliability of applications created by citizen developers.

Empowering Citizen Developers: The Case of Adjust and Pendo

Adjust, a mobile marketing analytics platform, utilizes citizen developers through Pendo’s low-code/no-code platform. Citizen developers efficiently deploy customer-centric features with minimal JavaScript, reducing the reliance on front-end experts.

Adjust’s aggregated analytics API is used by the support and data science teams, seamlessly integrating with Metabase for data visualization. Citizen developers in revenue operations enhance customer engagement by incorporating usage data with Salesforce. In short, Adjust’s innovative approach, Pendo, and the analytics API together drive efficiency, agility, and innovation.

Exploring Low-Code/No-Code Platforms

Low-code and no-code platforms have become essential tools for both organizations and individuals. These platforms simplify the application development process, making it accessible to more users. Some of these platforms and their notable features are highlighted below.

Mendix is a leading platform in the low-code field, with organizations like SWICA, Archway, HiCast Sports Network, etc., using it to streamline processes and promote innovation. SWICA, for example, replaced their old systems with a user-friendly Mendix application, while Archway made banking services more accessible. Likewise, HiCast improved sports streaming experiences.

Node-RED takes a different approach as an open-source visual programming tool. It simplifies the development of event-driven applications by seamlessly connecting hardware devices, APIs, and online services. Node-RED provides a browser-based flow editor, enhancing accessibility, and is built on Node.js for flexibility. Companies like Hitachi, Tulip, and Cosmo have used Node-RED to create innovative solutions.

In addition to Mendix and Node-RED, several other low-code/no-code platforms empower users to create applications without extensive coding knowledge. Platforms such as OutSystems, Appian, Microsoft’s Power Apps, Quick Base, and Zoho Creator democratize the software development process by enabling users to develop applications with minimal coding expertise.

Challenges Faced by Citizen Developers

The rise of citizen developers, facilitated by low-code platforms, brings several challenges. These issues relate mainly to the unfamiliarity with this concept within several organizations, lack of IT expertise that leads to security and compliance concerns, shortage of necessary resources and tools, time constraints for implementation, possible resistance by information systems teams, communication bottlenecks, inadequate testing capacity, ongoing maintenance requirements as well as scalability problems.

Predicting the Future of Non-Traditional Software Development

The future of non-traditional software development and citizen developers holds tremendous promise as businesses continue to embrace it. With advancements in low-code/no-code platforms and the integration of AI and automation, citizen developers may be expected to work on increasingly complex projects. These tools will empower individuals without technical backgrounds to create more advanced applications.

The job market will also evolve as companies seek individuals with a mix of expertise in specific domains and a basic understanding of coding. This trend represents a significant shift in how technology is utilized, enabling innovation and agility at unprecedented levels, with citizen developers leading the way.

The Bottom Line

Citizen developers are transforming software development by providing cost-effective solutions and driving innovation. Their impact on businesses, alongside professional developers, is transformative. Both organizations and individuals must embrace this trend to stay competitive. The time has come to employ citizen development’s potential fully, ensuring a dynamic and efficient future.


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Assad Abbas
Tenured Associate Professor
Assad Abbas
Tenured Associate Professor

Dr Assad Abbas received his PhD from North Dakota State University (NDSU), USA. He is a tenured Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science at COMSATS University Islamabad (CUI), Islamabad campus, Pakistan. Dr. Abbas has been associated with COMSATS since 2004. His research interests are mainly but not limited to smart health, big data analytics, recommender systems, patent analytics and social network analysis. His research has been published in several prestigious journals, including IEEE Transactions on Cybernetics, IEEE Transactions on Cloud Computing, IEEE Transactions on Dependable and Secure Computing, IEEE Systems Journal, IEEE Journal of Biomedical and Health Informatics,…