Does your IT team harness Citizen Developers?

Does your IT team harness Citizen Developers?
The explosion of the Internet of Things has led organisations to experiment with new digital applications in the pursuit of greater connectivity between devices. With mobile playing a key role in the development of these innovations, it comes as little surprise that demand for IT professionals that possess these skills has grown. In fact, as our latest Tech Cities Job Watch report revealed, demand for permanent IT staff with mobile skills grew by nearly 40% in the past year; while mobile roles made up 28% of all roles analysed.

However, while these skills are in high demand, they remain in short supply. As a result, many organisations are investing in so-called ‘Citizen Developers’ to fill their skills gaps.

Citizen Developers are employees with limited or no formal technical development skills, but who work with the IT function to help develop digital applications and user interfaces. They’re rapidly growing in numbers and prominence. So much so, that almost 60% of custom applications are now built outside the IT department; and 82% of businesses report that Citizen Developers will become more important over the next two years.

This option has been made possible by new, easy-to-use software platforms. By taking away the underlying technical complexities, IT functions can make use of non-IT staff during the development process – helping them to navigate skills shortages, reduce dependence on expensive contractors, and develop more user-friendly IT systems by including end users in the process. Most importantly, they enable IT professionals to focus on what they do best – driving complex, strategic change programmes, while more simplistic requirements are handled elsewhere.

Benefits of Citizen Developers

From an employee perspective, becoming a Citizen Developer comes with many benefits. As technological innovations continue to transform the world of work, there’s a growing awareness that individuals who seek learning opportunities will be better positioned for career growth. After all, the future of work will require different skills, and people will increasingly find they need to upskill and diversify into new areas. Those that start embracing this mindset now will be one step ahead of their colleagues. And few things demonstrate a willingness to diversify into new areas more than a non-IT professional getting involved in the digital development process.

At the same time, from an employer’s perspective, organisations that encourage their workers to learn new skills – and who facilitate this process – are becoming increasingly attractive places to work. In fact, 37% of UK workers say that career development opportunities are one of the most important factors they consider when making career decisions. To attract and retain the best talent, employers need to show that they’re prepared to upskill and reskill their workers – and embracing Citizen Developers is a great way to do this.

On the surface, it may seem as though it’s only the Citizen Developer’s skills which will be enhanced by this approach – but that’s not the case. As we’ve spoken about previously, the importance of soft skills is often overlooked across the IT function. However, as IT evolves from a back-end service provision role to one of strategic involvement, these are the kinds of skills and abilities that make the difference between high and low performance departments. While Citizen Developers may be looking to develop their technical skills; they can, in turn, help to develop the soft skills of the IT professionals they are supporting, by creating a culture of collaboration and mutual learning.

Handle with care

While Citizen Developers can be beneficial for both employers and employees, they come with risks attached and must be handled with care. Any applications or interfaces that are developed through this model must meet an enterprise standard. Failure to ensure this may expose businesses to a wide range of security and compliance risks. With this in mind, it’s critical that organisations maintain tight control over the standards their systems meet, whether they’re heavily involved in their development or not.

Nonetheless, organisations that effectively – and safely – harness Citizen Developers can realise significant benefits. Not only can this approach allow them to create an improved IT infrastructure, but it can ensure they better support and develop their workforce and are positioned as a clear employer of choice.

For more information about the changing workforce dynamics within the technology sector, download the latest Tech Cities Job Watch.