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Unlock Digital Transformation: What is a Citizen Developer

Gerry Sweeney -

With the emergence of software systems for business in the 2000’s that were designed to be more configurable by customers without needing to be a software coder/developer, the concept of a Citizen Developer emerged as organizations began recognizing the potential for non-technical/non-IT business users to create their own applications, workflows and integrations using no-code/low-code platforms, essentially removing the need for more traditional IT/Software/Application development processes.

The term Citizen Developer is not a formal job title, nor something you can train for or receive a diploma in, you can think of a Citizen Developer as a persona rather than a specific job title. The essence of a Citizen Developer is someone who would be considered a Business Analyst (BA) who has enough technical skills and knowledge to use low-code/no-code platforms and systems to design and compose business solutions to automate workflows and system integrations etc, but rather than focus on the technical details, their focus, perspective and objectives are primarily focused on business outcomes, business enablement and business efficiency.

Citizen Developers vs. Professional Developers

The world of software development continues to evolve rapidly, with new paradigms emerging to meet the ever-growing demands of businesses. Among these is the distinction between citizen developers and professional developers. While both contribute to the development ecosystem, their roles, tools, and contributions differ significantly. This article seeks to create the definitions, roles, and value of citizen developers and professional developers, and examines how no-code/low-code platforms empower citizen developers to drive business innovation.

Citizen Developers are business professionals who leverage no-code/low-code software solutions to create applications, automate workflows, and solve business problems. They typically come from light or non-professional technical backgrounds but possess a keen interest and understanding of business processes and finding ways of supporting and improving business efficiencies. Citizen developers are generally un-distracted/non-obsessed with technical and/or coding issues, and instead leverage visual-based tools and existing systems that require minimal coding skills, enabling them to build applications without extensive IT or programming knowledge.

Professional Developers, on the other hand, are trained and experienced software engineers. They possess in-depth knowledge of programming languages, software development methodologies, infrastructure, databases and other low-level systems as well as software development best practices. Professional developers create complex, scalable, and robust applications, often working on large-scale projects that require a deep understanding of the internals of software architecture and engineering principles.

The key differences between citizen developers and professional developers lie in their skill sets, tools, focus, and the complexity of the projects they handle. While citizen developers focus on solving specific business problems quickly, professional developers engage in building and maintaining sophisticated software systems that require rigorous development practices.

The Role of a Citizen Developer within your Organization

Citizen developers play a crucial role in modern organizations that wish to leverage technology to deliver business value and better outcomes through digital transformation initiatives, by expertly bridging the gap between business needs and IT capabilities. Their primary role is to use applications and platforms that already exist in order to automate processes that address specific business challenges, improve efficiency, and enhance productivity. Unlike a professional developer who’s focus and perspective is one of engineering, the Citizen Developer looks through the lens of business need, focusing in on business efficiency and business outcomes and business value. The Citizen Developer is generally agnostic of specific technologies, and instead focuses on using existing platforms, applications, systems and integrations in order to meet the needs of the business.

Here are some key aspects of a citizen developer’s role within your Organization:

  • Identifying Business Problems: Citizen developers are often embedded within business units and will always have a deep understanding of the challenges and inefficiencies that exist within their business domains. They will identify opportunities for automation and process improvement, which can be addressed generally through customizing, configuring and further integrating existing applications, systems and integrations.

  • Building Applications: Using no-code or low-code platforms, integrations and tools, Citizen Developers build applications without needing extensive coding skills, instead using drag-and-drop interfaces, pre-built templates, and visual workflows, that can be used to express functionality in business terms, enabling the creation of functional workflows and integrations quickly and without the complexities generally involved with software development.

  • Collaborating with IT: Citizen developers are generally business aligned and not technology aligned, so while citizen developers often operate independently of IT, they will almost always collaborate with IT in order to ensure that their applications adhere to security, compliance, and integration standards. This collaboration helps maintain a balance between innovation and governance.

  • Iterating and Improving: Citizen developers continuously iterate on their applications, workflows and integrations based on user feedback and changing business needs. This agile approach allows them to refine, enhance and improve things over time, ensuring they remain relevant and effective.

  • Empowering Business Users: Citizen developers empower their colleagues to take control of their workflows and processes. This democratization of development fosters a culture of innovation and self-sufficiency within the organization.

  • Identifying Platforms and Solutions Citizen developers are generally pivotal in identifying, evaluating and selecting applications, platforms and software systems a business will include in their business application portfolio.

The Role of a Professional Developer

Professional developers are the backbone of the software development industry. They are generally responsible for designing, building, and maintaining complex software systems that meet the rigorous demands of modern businesses for scalability, reliability, performance and security. In a modern IT landscape, large-scale IT systems are generally built by software vendors who focus on the low level details of software engineering, infrastructure and so on. With the emergence of SaaS and Cloud based software, generally speaking, Software/SaaS/Cloud vendors employ software engineers and take care of all of the software engineering, creating solutions that can be leveraged by businesses and their Citizen Developers to focus on business efficiency, innovation and technical edge. For most organizations, unless you are a company developing a software/SaaS product yourself that you sell to your customers, a good rule of thumb would be to think of your people employed to focus on ensuring your business efficiency and innovation for competitive advantage, you should be employing Citizen Developers, while the software/platform vendors you partner with can focus on software engineering to create great product capabilities that you can leverage in your business.


Hornbill was created from day one to be a low-code workflow orchestration, automation and integration platform, with a strong pedigree in service management, service catalog and customer support solutions. Our focus is on enabling our customers to leverage the Hornbill platform, workflow automation and the many hundreds of cloud, as well as behind the firewall integrations right out of the box, which enables our customers to focus on their business needs, efficiencies, and digital transformation initiatives that can give you distinct competitive advantages.  By understanding and leveraging the strengths and value of Citizen Developers, businesses can achieve greater agility, cost efficiency, and competitive advantage in an ever-evolving technological landscape.


Hornbill ESM

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