How to Empower Your Citizen Developers

Ann All

I was just trying for an eye-catching headline a few months back when I used the term BYOA, or build-your-own-app, to describe the growing trend of business users creating their own applications with little if any assistance from IT staff. Little did I dream it would catch the attention of a BBC reporter who interviewed me and used a few of my remarks in her story about folks creating business apps on their own.


Among the other sources for the BBC article were Tommy Ahlers, CEO of Podio, a company that offers a build-your-own-app capability as part of its productivity platform. A big advantage of BYOA, Ahlers said, is the feeling of empowerment it gives users.


If empowering users isn't enough of an incentive for IT organizations, perhaps they'll be interested in another benefit, clearing some application development work off their own overflowing plates. A lack of development resources has always been a problem for IT organizations and the business users they serve, says Ian Finley, a Gartner research vice president interviewed by


Thanks to simplified development tools and cloud technologies that make it easier for users to deploy apps on their own, Gartner is predicting more than 25 percent of business apps will be created by so-called citizen developers by 2014.


Gartner isn't advocating simply turning citizen developers loose, of course. IT organizations must ensure the tools being used by the citizen developers produce apps that are secure and function well in the company's overall environment. Smart IT organizations will adopt an "internal consultant" role, providing user training and making themselves available to answer development questions, says Finley in the piece. IT organizations that choose not to take this approach may have to deal with security and integration issues that can occur when users take matters entirely into their own hands as they almost inevitably will.


Gartner's suggestions for what's needed for an effective citizen developer program:

  • Sanctioned platforms
  • Just enough governance
  • Access to enterprise services
  • IT guidance and monitoring

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