Posting in Design
'Citizen developers' will soon be building up to a quarter of all business applications.
Attend any technology conference or read any trade journal or analyst report, and it won't be long before you hear about the lack of "business-IT alignment" that hampers software and systems implementations. The IT department can't figure out what the business wants, and the businesspeople don't understand IT, and so on.
But this isn't 1985 anymore. You don't have a mainframe data center buried somewhere deep in the organizations, spitting out greenbar reports for business users. If anything, business users -- especially incoming Generation Xers and Yers -- are incredibly technology savvy, and understand what technology can do for their enterprises. At the same time, IT professionals are increasingly growing business savvy. Check out any IT conference agenda, or university curriculum, and you'll see a healthy dose of business-focused education.
Darryl Taft discusses recent remarks by Gartner analyst Eric Knipp, who raised the possibility that many of us will be both producers and consumers of our own software. Knipp refers to this as the rise of "citizen developers," and predicts that within the next five years, 25 percent of all new business applications will be built by non-technical users.
It's the ultimate expression of self-service, in fact. We already know the self-service ethic is a winning approach for many companies. Businesses have seen tremendous gains thanks to self-service portals for customers as well as employees. Customers can manage their own accounts, and employees can manage their on-the-job resources and benefits plans via self-service. Why not self-service IT?
Non-tech user application development has already been around in one form -- the spreadsheet. And lately, there is an emerging area where users are already building a lot of their own applications -- through mashups and widgets. "For years, Excel end users have cut-and-pasted data to feed their calculation engines. Spreadsheet-based solutions have spread throughout the enterprise without the involvement of IT," according to Micheal Ogrinz, author of Mashup Patterns: Designs and Example for the Modern Enterprise. "Mashup tools enable the automation of this aggregation process, and a new clan of users is poised to run wild with the technology."
Mashups or widgets enable business users to quickly design applications that serve specific purposes. In the past, designing an application meant delivering specs and requirements to the IT department, which was typically backlogged with pressing enterprise priorities. Maybe a prototype of the application the user was looking for would show up after four or five months, in an exercise in which further refinement would be necessary. Mashups, by contrast, can be built within hours or even minutes, and users can immediately put them to work, displaying information.
There may be a huge impact on the bottom line as well. As cited in an earlier post, we cited a contest staged by the District of Columbia municipal government, which encouraged developers from all walks of life to create applications that would give residents access to data such as crime reports and pothole repair schedules. Forty-seven applications were created in 30 days. McKinsey & Company, which reported the effort, notes that "hiring contract developers would have cost approximately $2.6 million, whereas the cost of running the contest was a mere $50,000." Citizen developers in action!
The blending of IT and business is inevitable, and by moving more application development to business users, they have greater responsibility and control over the software that drives their parts of the business. As Gartner's Knipp put it: "The bottom line lies in encouraging citizen developers to take on application development projects that free IT resources to work on more complex problems."
Oct 26, 2009
Just keep in mind two things you have to manage during the development of any software, chaos and complexity. If you can glue together pieces and make them work without breaking each other and still performing the functions you intended in the beginning, you are a developer! Forget about performance, because nowadays computer are powerful enough to allow even prototypes to do some work. You can leave that for the professionals, that will take much more time for all the testing and quality assurance phases of any kind of project.
Good post! I agree that there should be this trend of everyone is becoming a developer. Yet, I'm coming from another angle that software nowadays is far more powerful and less cost. That anyone can leverage / use it at the very less effort. So, it's not necessary to grasp programming skills, before you can get some real good values out of the currently offering generation of software. I would take the example of building a web site for yourself (a personal one, or even a business one). You will start with buying a domain name. It can be as low as 10$/year. Dirt cheap. Then, you are buying a hosting service (for example from Godaddy.com with just about 70$/year). Then, you're ready to roll. You should ask me right away "how about the effort to build the web site? how about the web site design? all of those technical things?". That's how the open source stuff comes in effectively. You can use Joomla as your CMS with PHP and MySQL down there in the framework. Then, you can choose any of the free templates from http://www.siteground.com/joomla-hosting/joomla-templates.htm or plenty of other design sites offering the same things. Though the designs are free, it's at good/professional quality. So, the total cost of having your web site up and run is less than 100$. Because there are ready-to-use and free software out there. And also thanks to the design communities to offer many good things... for free... So, even you are not becoming a developer, leveraging the current open-source software system for your own use helps a lot. For business purpose, you can always find free software out there from accounting (Nolapro) to CRM (like SugarCRM). Cool, right? In conclusion, software/technology for me is almost free for anyone. As long as you spend your time and ask Mr. Google, you will see that there is something good and free at hand.
Let's face it. All of the so-called pre-made Office and Business applications are over-kill for the average business. I run a small business, and I tried Quick Books, Office 2007, Excel, and the like. I spent more time trying to align these applications to my business than I would have if I had learned programming and wrote my own business applications. I finally gave up on them and learned programming and wrote my own applications, and designed my own custom invoices. My customers love it, and have complimented me. The lesson is, if you have enough sense to succeed in business, then you have enough sense to write your own business applications that reflect your individual personality. Forget the standard, and make history writing your own software.