How A Forrester Analyst Learned Citizen Developers Exist

4 minute read
Erika Morphy avatar
'Sure', John Rymer would say to himself, 'I am find professional developers using low code platforms with no problem. But where are the operations people?'

When Forrester senior analyst John Rymer attended the Chicago-based Intuit QuickBase's first user conference earlier this year, he was surprised to find what he had come to suspect didn't really exist: a true citizen developer.

Rymer had been researching the growth of so-called "low code" platforms, which is what brought him to Intuit QuickBase's Empower 2015 user conference.

But after scores of interviews of users of these platforms, which, like Intuit QuickBase, position themselves for line of business users that want to create their own custom applications without writing code, he hadn't found a huge number of line of business users actively developing apps. 

A handful, here and there? Sure. A special cadre of users of the similar vendors in this space, such as Caspio and Snappii? Absolutely. But, overall, it seemed the majority of people using these platforms were professional developers, Rymer told CMSWire.

A Growing Trend

Here would be a good place to note that the so-called citizen developer trend has been part of the tech vernacular for a few years. Every so often a consulting firm or a tech publication will declare that the next evolution of enterprise technology will be led by these citizen developers.

Lately, though, this trend has been gaining traction especially as companies as Salesforce and Microsoft release and build upon their own iterations of these platforms, Lightning and PowerApps, respectively. 

But the breakdown of users had been unclear. Professional developers have been gravitating to them in part because market demand for a certain feature or function can spring up overnight -- especially if it is a customer-facing function. 

But as Rymer went about the activities at Empower 2015, he kept bumping into them — the operations people, that is, who putting together customized apps via Quickbase's low-code Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS). They weren't just here and there, or as part of a carefully curated group by the vendor. They were everywhere.

He sat next to them at lunch. He chaired a session full of them. He addressed a crowd and asked all the professional developers to raise their hands. Few people did.

Rymer left the conference convinced that low code platforms are a viable and increasingly popular tool for business users.

Learning Opportunities

"There is a split occurring between the professional and non-professional app developers in these platforms that is becoming very noticeable and significant," he now says.

At the same time, the use case is changing for professional developers that have added these platforms to their tool sets.  Rymer explored this issue in a recent research report entitled "Low-Code Platforms Deliver Customer-Facing Apps Fast, But Will They Scale Up?" (Spoiler alert: the answer turns out to be yes) in which he noted that "application development and delivery (AD&D) professionals" first began using low-code platforms on a project-by-project basis and are expanding from there.

As the use cases grow, it is essential that these platforms are able to scale to support bigger and more apps, he wrote.

The AD&D Crowd

Professional developers, make no mistake, are a key constituent of these platforms however — and the vendors realize that.

John Carione, head of product marketing for Intuit QuickBase, told CMSWire that the future of the platform's development will be equally skewed to professional developers as the citizen developers.

“The market is moving too fast for anyone to create something from scratch,” he says. “So regardless of whether a user is a professional developer or a citizen developer, folks have to be able to leverage a network other people solving similar problems using building blocks of apps based on repeatable use cases that can be tweaked and customized in the last mile at real time.”