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I Started My IT Career as a Citizen Developer 

CD Did Not Stand for Citizen Developer in 1991

The term didn’t exist in the early 1990s, but I was, by definition, a “Citizen Developer.” I worked in the cash office of a retail chain of what used to be called record stores. CDs were all the rage at the time, but they were still sold in “record” stores. I know you’re thinking, “Whoa, this dude is old…” but stick with me. I was the guy who changed the cash register drawers between shifts. Because of my position and tasks, I had a lot of downtime daily. A pair of IBM servers in the cash office had only a DOS interface. (that means text-only for you Gen-whatever’s) Somehow, I started playing with batch files (collections of DOS, uh, text commands) and used them to create a functional cash office tutorial with multiple-choice test questions. I was so into it that my co-workers called me “Batch Boy.” I’m not kidding. It hurt.

I was a business user with no technical training who used no-code technology to make something beneficial to the company. They should have called me Mr. Citizen Developer, but like I said, the term did not exist in the 1990s.

Where Are Citizen Developers Today?

You may be considering the role of citizen developers in your business and wondering how to get started on this journey.

The likely answer is that a growing number of business users in your organization already fit the description. They see and act on opportunities to use their available resources to make working no- or low-code tools and solutions for themselves and their teams. The natural place to start is to identify the citizen developers you already have.

Yeah, But I Don't Want Some Kid Messing Around with Servers

Much has changed since “Good Vibrations” by Marky Mark (Wahlberg) topped the charts. Today, a whole field of tools offers Intelligent Automation tools for citizen developers. Among them are Microsoft’s Power Automate and Power Tools and UiPath’s Studio X. These work within the scope of the user’s access, so they won’t be running afoul with IT. They also offer templates and a large user community to help get new users up to speed.

In short, these tools enable non-technical business users to realize focused productivity benefits while limiting the functionality required for more complex, business-critical solutions.

There is, however, room to grow.

Would my business benefit from citizen developers?

Depending on the business strategy and culture, citizen developers can raise productivity individually or in teams or help drive digital transformation and other broader initiatives. In the case of Intelligent Automation, citizen developers play a vital role in an automation Center of Excellence pipeline by identifying and creating candidate automations to be promoted to a professional IA Development Team to transform them into secure and sustainable enterprise-ready solutions.

If your organization already has an active automation program or CoE, seeking out and engaging citizen developers will support a sustainable pipeline of more complex, integrated, and high-ROI automations. If your organization is only at the point of considering what its intelligent automation strategy is going to be, then identifying and engaging business subject matter experts who also happen to be citizen developers is a low-cost, low-risk way to gain familiarity with automation and realize benefits sooner rather than later.

In Conclusion

While any sustainable software solution requires a professional team to develop, implement, and maintain, there is a place for citizen developers. A fair number of curious and willing business users will take advantage of every opportunity to automate, streamline, and improve their corner of the business without knowing anything about code. Or CD’s. Or record stores. Or records… 

About SphereGen

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SphereGen is a unique solutions provider that specializes in cloud-based applications, Intelligent Automation, and Extended Reality (AR/VR/MR). We offer full-stack custom application development to help customers employ innovative technology to solve business problems.

Learn more about what we do in Application Development: https://www.spheregen.com/application-development

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