Citizen developer / professional developer collaboration can drive more robust solutions

Johannesburg, 29 Sep 2023
Surging popularity of low code and citizen developers driven by the need for more business solutions than IT can deliver.
Surging popularity of low code and citizen developers driven by the need for more business solutions than IT can deliver.

Low code / no code platforms have paved the way for citizen developers, who can bolster the work of professional developers and help organisations innovate faster.

This is according to experts speaking during a webinar hosted by Mint Group, in partnership with ITWeb. Mint, a Microsoft partner, offers the Power Platform for scalable, seamless low code / no code development.

Edward Müller, sales solutions architect at Mint Group, explained: “Low code platform is basically a software development framework that allows developers to create applications with minimal hand coding, using a visual interface. These platforms typically provide drag and drop functionality and tools and pre-built functionality for things like integration and some user inputs. It includes pre-built components like user authentication modules, data integration tools and UI components. It also has cross-platform capabilities and is usually designed to be scalable.”

“Low code enables rapid application development and deployment because you don’t need to start from scratch. It’s not a no-code environment, however. You can also extend it and add in your own code where necessary.”

A poll of webinar participants found that the most common challenge they faced with low code is integration challenges, with 37% citing this. 22% highlighted limited customisation, 14% said the learning curve was a top challenge.

The rise of low code

Müller said: “In the past two years we have seen quite a rise in the use of low code platforms in the local market, but there is some hesitation from developers to start using low code platforms, even though they could use it to simplify and expedite processes.

Initially smaller companies were quick to adopt these low code solutions but over time, large enterprises also started to use them. Modern low code platforms aren’t just about drag and drop, but also offer integration into enterprise systems, with AI and advanced functionality. Pro developers should be using these platforms because they speed up development time.”

He noted that low code offers speed and agility, cost savings, and fosters a culture of innovation company-wide. It overcomes the persistent gap between the demand for software solutions and the availability of skilled developers.

“With low code, you can build in-house capabilities and help fill skills gaps, to get solutions tested and out to market quicker. It reduces dependence on external services, bridges the IT gap and allows senior developers to focus on more advanced projects.”

Empowering citizen developers

Müller said low code empowers citizen developers who have a lot of business knowledge but don’t necessarily have a formal programming background, to start developing applications and do rapid prototyping. "With citizen developers closer to the end users of the applications they develop, there is a continuous feedback loop and applications may better meet business’s needs.”

He noted that a democratised application development environment required safeguards, however: “You need governance and proper training, and oversight is crucial to ensure your applications meet security and quality standards. A lot of this is built into the platforms, but it is important to establish guidelines and best practices for your citizen developers to follow.”

Where developers and citizen developers intersect

The rise of low code and citizen developers was being driven by digital transformation and the need for more business solutions than IT can deliver, said Christo Greeff, specialist consultant at Mint Group.

Developers still have an important role to play, he noted. “They have deep technical expertise around performance, scalability and security, and the ability to handle complex projects, integrate systems and develop bespoke solutions. They are good at problem solving, which helps ensure software reliability.”

“At the intersection of citizen developers and professional developers, collaboration is key. Citizen developers can prototype solutions while professional developers can then optimise, scale or integrate these solutions.” Clear boundaries should be established, and communication encouraged between citizen and professional developers, he said.

Together, they can bridge the gap, Greeff said: “Citizen developers understand the business perspective while developers have the technical expertise. Together, they can create robust, effective solutions.”

For business, the benefits of harnessing the strengths of both citizen and professional developers include rapid prototyping and development, reduced outsourcing costs, and better alignment with business needs, Greeff concluded.