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Could it be that we are all potential developers? I’d like to talk to you about two recent studies. The first, published by Global Market Insights, predicts that the business application market will continue to grow by around 7.6% every year until 2024. The second, published by Clutch, looks at the growth of mobile apps in small and medium-sized companies in the US. It predicts that 67% of US small and medium-sized companies will have their own mobile apps by the end of 2017, up from only 42% at the end of 2016.

But leaving figures aside, there is a growing need for business applications – for both SMEs and groups alike. Obviously the constraints on these two types of business are different. A major group will have to meet the expectations of people right across the board for greater autonomy, and will have to deal with infrastructure security constraints which will have a bearing on the technologies they choose to build the app, etc. The constraints are more to do with expertise and financial investment where SMEs are concerned.

But they do have one thing in common. The need for agility in a fast-changing digital world.

Manage the lifecycle of the mobile app

So the “citizen developer” profile is very much in keeping with this trend, which sees end users “designing” their apps themselves. Let’s move on from the limitations that this imposes on major companies. Instead I’ll talk about the advantages that citizen developers offer SMEs in particular.

This trend involves providing people throughout the company with the ability to design, develop and deploy their mobile apps – without having to call upon a developer. One of the things that makes this possible is platforms such as Wakanda, which incorporate the whole mobile app production chain into a single working environment: users have all the technologies and all the tools that they need for their project, from design to deployment. As a RMAD platform, Wakanda provides users with technical expertise and simplifies the whole app development process for them. They don’t need to be coding experts and can deliver a high-performance app without enlisting anyone else’s help. I won’t dwell too much in this post on what the Wakanda platform can do – you can learn about that by clicking here. But I will add that this new way of working is also made possible by the Cloud.

This trend is also the result of changes in the way people think and what they use apps for. More and more people have access to expertise – both in development and other business areas thanks to tools and technologies which incorporate this expertise and simplify it. But professionals’ experience and know-how will never cease to have their place. Their areas of expertise are being deployed elsewhere and mobile apps are no longer included on the list of things that – previously – only they were able to create.

The benefits for SMEs are obvious: they can get the technical expertise that they lack, take advantage of new skills and fully enter the era of digital transformation without having to manage costly IT infrastructure – while having the freedom to create business apps that will help them optimize their working processes.

What are these apps?

But what type of mobile app is citizen developers developing? 83% of them appear to be designed to improve workflows. 63% set out to increase productivity, 42% are intended to help one of the organization’s third parties (or services). What is noteworthy in particular is the fact that only 12% of them are the result of someone being asked by their line manager to develop an app.

What this means is that these developers are self-starters – they are almost on a personal quest, but one that will help others or the organization as a whole. Citizen developers are creative, independent, dedicated to their work and – needless to say – able to adapt so they can learn to develop in a working environment which makes tasks easier for them.

They provide the company with the agility that it needs in a digital world, one in which mobile apps are a must as the primary digital channel for interacting with their clients.

And citizen developers have come about because they can quickly satisfy a business need – without the need for major investment. One figure is worth mentioning: depending on how complex it is, it takes between 2 and 4 weeks to develop an app on an RMAD platform, such as Wakanda. On average, it takes an estimated 3 to 6 months for a company to develop a mobile app. And the reason? The decision-making process, all the structural and organizational constraints governing the project… and the technological constraints. IT managers, company directors, CEOs – it’s very much in their interests to allow citizen developers to seize on the technology and provide the organization with this agility that the digital era requires.

Choosing the right tool

The success of citizen developers depends on their ability to adapt to what is involved in developing the mobile app and their ability to acquire new expertise. It also depends very much on what platform they use. The criteria you should bear in mind fall into two categories:

  1. Technological. Each of the steps involved in producing a mobile app involves different languages, technologies and tools. Your platform has to be able to manage each of these stages to the same strict level, and provide you with as much freedom as possible regarding the technology you choose. So it has to be “open”. This means it has to be able to connect easily to your database, for example, via its APIs. You must be able to choose to publish your app wherever you want and to maintain or upgrade it easily.

 

  1. Methodological. By definition, citizen developers have relatively little development expertise. It is vital that the platform be simple and ergonomically designed if the citizen developer is to succeed. But straightforward does not mean undemanding: it is perfectly possible to create a complex app while simplifying the design process. Simplifying things means automating those tasks which can be automated, providing support for the workflows so that teams can focus on their aim, their project and “value-added” tasks.