Software development team roles are changing as the pace of business continues to accelerate.  Agile development, continuous integration and continuous delivery continue to become more important.  At the same time, there are more low-code and no-code platforms that enable less technical “citizen developers” to build, update and enhance line of business applications.

“We need citizen developers because lines of business need to keep pace with rapidly changing market conditions and regulatory requirements,” said Prakash Aradhya, product management director at Red Hat.  “With all of those changes, line of business professionals want more control of their applications so they can make the changes necessary, update those quickly and get to market faster.”

Toward that end, more IT departments are creating infrastructures that help abstract the technical complexity of software development so citizen developers can create, maintain and manage line of business applications with drag-and drop simplicity.

Citizen development is growing
More software organizations have moved away from Waterfall development because their companies can’t wait months or years for competitive business applications they need today.  Agile and lean development methods have accelerated software delivery, but they don’t ensure that all line-of-business applications are always up-to-date.  As a result, business users continue to wait for application changes they think should be implemented faster, so more of them are looking for ways to update and build applications themselves.

“In an ideal world, IT would set up an app service around some of the existing infrastructure so it can be consumed easily by business applications,” said Aradhya.  “The more plumbing IT developers can do, the less coding lines of business have to do.”

Cloud-based services help
Cloud-based development models simplify service provisioning and they make it easier for citizen developers to consume the services their IT departments provide.  Citizen developers also need a way to make sense of those services because they tend not to understand software architecture and related issues.  Low-code and no-code platforms mask all that complexity behind visual interfaces that citizen developers can easily understand and use.

Not all low-code and no-code platforms integrate equally well into existing business processes, however.  If citizen developers have to change the way they work to conform to the limitations of a particular tool, they’ll either stop using it or risk losing some of the time-to-market benefits the tool is designed to provide.

“Architectural flexibility is critical in today’s dynamic environment,” said Aradhya.  “Citizen developers should be able to use tools within the context of existing business operations.”

The cloud provides both IT and lines of business with other foreseeable benefits including simple infrastructure provisioning and elasticity, which are necessary to speed application changes while controlling costs.  

Meanwhile, citizen developers are hearing more about the benefits of microservices so they’re starting to ask whether IT and the tools they use support them.  Using the cloud, IT can easily make microservices available that citizen developers can consume and combine at will, assuming their platform supports them.

Automation will further simplify development
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is expected to enable a lot of business process efficiencies, but many lines of business are concerned about job displacement.  Still, many software development tasks, particularly those that are easily repeatable and reproducible are already being automated.  Additional tasks will be automated in the future that will enable citizen developers to accomplish more using their existing skills.

“Citizen developers aren’t expected to have a deep understanding of the code, so automation will help simplify business application changes and the creation of new applications,” said Aradhya.  “The automation will range from rote, repetitive tasks to more complex and predictive cognitive process automation.  Ultimately, there’s an opportunity for lines of business to identify how they can streamline their operations.”

For now, citizen developers are more concerned about timely software delivery which is further enabled by automation and self-service capabilities.  As the pace of business continues to accelerate, more lines of business will be demanding platforms and tools that enable them to make changes to their own applications quickly and simply.

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