Citizen Developers and The Rise of No-Code Tools

Jack Gill

17 Sep 2021 · 5 mins read

Citizen Developers and The Rise of No-Code Tools

Non-coding developer. NoCode dev. Citizen Developer. They go by many names, but the prospect remains the same; citizen developers are employees who, with little or no coding experience, can build their own applications.  

Using no-code or no-code platforms, citizen developers are able to create sophisticated apps without any prior development experience. Professional developers, on the other hand, use traditional code for such tasks, drawing on their knowledge of conventional languages like C#, Java or Python.

Recent findings from Gartner suggest that low- and no-code development platforms will account for over 65% of the development industry by 2024. On top of this, an estimated 80% of technology products and services will be built by non-technology professionals. 

Off the back of these findings, this article will evaluate some of the reasons behind this forecast, particularly, exploring no-code as it widens the talent pool in digital business. 

The road to no-code

No-code tools can be found as early as 1985, when Microsoft released its first version of Excel — followed by the Windows version two years later. Since then businesses across the globe have been using excel and other database tools to develop applications. 

While these remain viable solutions for capturing static data, they are ill-fitted for dealing with ever-changing data, nor companies who are looking to scale their operations. Add this to the fact that spreadsheets are liable to error and vulnerable to security risks, and you have a platform that is as risky as it is outdated. 

Today, mainstream examples of no-code tools can be found in the likes of Squarespace and Wordpress, which have enabled users to build their own websites — no technical background required. 

But the capabilities of no-code extends beyond just creating a website. As popularity in no-code development grows, so do its uses. From automated workflows to AI, database management to UI design, organisations across multiple industries are finding ways to leverage no-code solutions to improve their business processes. 

Plugging the digital skills gap 

The threat of a digital skills gap has loomed for a long time now, with more than 75% of executives facing challenges in digital recruitment. The COVID-19 pandemic has only accentuated these issues, as businesses have accelerated digital transformation projects —  an estimated ‘two years worth of work in two months’, according to Microsoft — and been in rapid search for talent. 

In fact, recent research from Michael Page shows that a software engineer is the world’s most in-demand profession, further evidence of the growing digital skills gap. 

Employers who want to plug this gap could benefit from leveraging no-code tools. Those organisations who develop a citizen development programme can widen their talent pool to ensure the successful build of apps by driven, enthusiastic employees. 

What’s more is that non-technical employees will be best suited for building these apps as they are the ones who know internal processes and pain problems the best.

These are after all the same candidates who have been on the lookout for new skills that will make them better equipped for a precarious job market. Digital skills, in particular, are sought after as big corporations undergo extensive digital transformation projects. 

No-code development is just one new opportunity for driven individuals looking to learn new skills and apply themselves in the tech industry. As organisations begin to reap the benefits of this approach, it’s likely that recruitment for citizen developers will increase as well. 

Joint research by CBI and McKinsey estimates that 90% of employees will need to undergo some form of reskilling in the next ten years. However, employees should not be intimidated by this finding but, rather, take comfort in the demand for no-code solutions, which allow them to expand their skill set without the need for strenuous teaching or classes. 

Low on code, big on benefits

Beyond the hype that surrounds this movement there are many significant benefits arising from no-code development. Companies who are using citizen developers attest to reduced backlog issues and an all round increase in efficiency when it comes to development.

For example, in a recent survey by techrepublic, nearly 40% of respondents who were using low-code/no-code platforms said they had seen real benefits in reducing app development time, automating workflows and improving productivity. 

No-code is a cost-effective choice too. As SMEs compete with companies who have larger digital transformation budgets, no-code provides a cost-effective alternative with many of the advantages of custom software solutions. 

Already revered for its flexible and scalable nature, the numerous use cases also illustrate how versatile no-code tools are as well. Whether you’re looking for a project management tool, need a place to store all your HR data or want to manage sales and accounts in a secure way, no-code platforms can help you. 

For these reasons, citizen developers who are retraining can bring skills from previous roles, marrying together a skill set of intellectual curiosity and practical knowhow. 

A no-code future 

Of course, no-code will face the same challenges as any digital solution, among which include concerns about security and company buy-in. But against a backdrop of reduced talent, resources and time, no-code continues to incite interest in those companies to increase productivity across their operations. 

While they offer innumerable benefits, it’s unlikely that no-code tools will put traditional developers out of business. Organisations should view them accordingly. Rather than thinking of it as an ‘all or nothing’ approach to development, consider the additional benefits that these tools could offer to your business. And if you’re an employee — developer or not — think about the opportunities that these tools might open up to you. 

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No-Code & Low-Code: An Introduction
No-Code & Low-Code: An Introduction
Use Cases for No-Code Tools
Use Cases for No-Code Tools