Citizen development, low and no code and lots of questions

I only heard about Citizen Development (CD) in the last two months. CD is a reference to people using low or no-code tools to develop software solutions.  Basically, it is like playing lego with software.

I am not a geek

I am not an IT specialist, coder or software geek, so I am never sure what that means. They explain that it is like the macros in Excel. I am also not an excel geek. Which means I am still none the wiser.


They tell me that CD is one of the most exciting movements in IT, innovation and transformation, opening up IT and change for everyone in an organisation, with near one-click deployment. The numbers suggest a 10X efficiency improvement and a 25X improvement in speed of development of ideas. By 2023, the number of active citizen developers at large enterprises will be at least four times the number of professional developers.


They tell me that it is also a compliance, security and data nightmare if it is not managed probably. It is shadow-IT on steroids, already an estimated 200 billion dollar problem in cybersecurity.


That there is tension in the openness of the movement and its near-limitless possibilities and protecting the organisations from the considerable risks.


They try to explain to me that abstraction is at the heart of no-code programming. That the complexity has been abstracted away, hidden by more user-friendly interfaces (the lego). Underneath those interfaces is still code but is invisible to the user. Allowing the user without having to code, to mix and match data and functionality. Functionalities such as image recognition, natural language processing, voice recognition, recommendation systems, and predictive analytics. Enabling a person who is not an expert doing expert things.

The statistics

When you look into the statistics, you start to realise that there might be something in this citizen development. Over 200 vendors are active, amongst which some of the biggest players in the world such as Salesforce, Google and Microsoft and recently Amazon. In China, Baidu is actively involved.


Companies such as Cisco, Adidas, Vodafone are applying CD with amazing results. When you then also talk to specialists in the field such as Arjun Jamnadass of FTI and Sunil Prashare of PMI who are both pioneers in this field, you start to realise that something big and exponential might be afoot.


There might even be a book in this. About the exciting opportunities of Citizen Development. How far could this go? Once you talk abstraction, can you apply the same techniques to robotics, material science, biology, genetics, etc.. Is Moore´s law applicable? Will it travel beyond IT and software.


What is the impact on the world of work, how will citizen development impact on innovation, marketing, customer engagement, human resource management, IT, organisational structures, culture, etc.?


The dangers of shadow IT, software spaghetti, vendor lock-in, data and cybersecurity. The dangers of using abstractions without the depth of knowledge and experience to fully understand the implications and not knowing who is behind the abstractions. Will we still understand how this works once this develops to its full potential. What is the role of AI in Citizen Development?

What do you think?

Lots of questions. Fascinating topic. I would love to hear what you think.

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Ron Immink

I help companies by developing an inspiring and clear future perspective, which creates better business models, higher productivity, more profit and a higher valuation. Best-selling author, speaker, writer.

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