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    A CIO’s Dilemma: Unchecked Citizen Developers and Organizational Security

    October 28, 2023

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    A chief information officer thinking about his challenges

    The break-neck pace of digital transformation and the shortage of technically qualified talent have forced businesses to call up their reserve soldiers – the citizen developers. However, lurking beneath the emerging low-code/no-code culture is a secret that keeps CIOs awake. Discover how CIOs can regain their peace of mind.

    Imagine you're a soccer coach, and your team is playing in a big tournament. As halftime approaches, the score is deadlocked at 1-1. In this critical juncture, a daunting challenge looms - your star player has suffered an injury, and you must swiftly find a replacement. This is precisely where the significance of your reserve players comes to the fore.

    In the corporate world, citizen developers are the reserve players.

    Well, almost. Let us explain.

    The Rise of Citizen Developers

    The business landscape of today is nothing short of a battlefield. It is chaotic, with ever-changing frontlines fueled by tech disruptions. Every innovation intensifies the arms race, threatening to relegate the slow learners to extinction.

    At the same time, a severe shortage of qualified talent is seriously hampering digitalization efforts. The result? An increasingly overburdened IT department that is struggling to keep up with business demands. Even as change requests continue to queue up, frustrated business leaders turned towards alternative solutions to traditional IT for their digital transformation projects.

    Enter citizen developers – non-IT employees armed with intimate knowledge of the business processes and empowered by technology like robotic process automation and Low Code No Code (LCNC) application platforms. With their newfound abilities, citizen developers can rapidly create applications to meet burning business needs without burdening the IT team.

    No wonder the business world is increasingly warming up to the idea. Gartner predicts citizen developers will outnumber professional developers by 4x in 2023, while Microsoft anticipates that over the next five years, as many as 450 million apps will be built using LCNC tools. It seems like a perfect modern solution for a modern problem that is fast, agile, and flexible. That is until you realize the pitfalls.

    Learn More: Digital Transformation Floundering? Here's the Chink in Your Change Management Armor

    Pitfalls of Citizen Developers

    Democratization of technology sounds like an excellent idea on paper. However, it's not perfect. To the point where unchecked citizen developers can create significant downstream problems for the CIO and, worse, wreak havoc on your organizational security infrastructure. Here are a few pitfalls of citizen developers running amok.

    1. Lack of oversight: New developers receive mentoring from seasoned peers with both formal and informal knowledge of enterprise practices in a traditional development team. Citizen developers lack this crucial guidance, which may allow development errors to creep into the project.

    2. Quality assurance: In a professional software development set-up, dedicated quality assurance teams exist to vet the software and catch any errors before production. Citizen developers usually do not follow the same procedure, which can allow bugs to creep in.

    3. Compromised security: Security and compliance risk are some of the most important KRAs for software development with industry standards and regulatory requirements. However, citizen developers work outside IT security protocols, which can lead to security gaps, data breaches, corruption, leakage, or improper integration.

    4. Integration difficulties: Most organizations run on legacy technology and data structures in both on-premise and cloud environments. Low-code platforms do not have the flexibility to connect apps to enterprise data and core systems like HCM. This also affects their scalability in the long run.

    5. Limited customization options: Citizen developers bring speed to the table with the ability to churn out relatively simple digital products to meet immediate business needs. However, designing a complex process or customizing the available low-code solution can be a surprisingly herculean task requiring intervention from professional developers.

    Learn More: Unveiling the Darwinbox Marketplace: The Only Portal You’ll Need to Unbox and Scale Your Business Potential

    Mitigating Citizen Development Risk

    You’ve been introduced to some of the major pitfalls of the citizen developers approach in the above section. However, none of this is meant to discredit citizen developers. In fact, as we have stated earlier, citizen developers are here to stay and even lead the digital disruption efforts from the frontlines. Instead, what businesses need is a risk mitigation strategy that lets them make the most out of the citizen developers without compromising on security. Here are some of the steps that you could take.

    1. Introduce governance and frameworks

    Establish a comprehensive citizen development governance framework to safeguard organizational security. The framework should include policies, procedures, technical resources, and involvement from key stakeholders, including business leadership, IT, and citizen developers.

    2. The IT department takes the lead

    Among all the stakeholders, the IT team brings the most crucial skills to the table. Besides their core skills, they also bring security, quality assurance, integration, and more to the table. These skills are absolutely crucial to the success of citizen developers. They will also play an important role in platform selection.

    3. Build a community

    A supportive community is a great place to bring together all your citizen developers. It encourages collaboration and peer feedback as well as develops a culture of recognition. All in all, a citizen developer community will provide a significant boost to the development efforts.

    And finally, the most important step.

    Choosing The Right Platform

    One of the most important pieces of the citizen development puzzle is the selection of the platform itself. The right low-code/no-code platform can significantly take the burden away from the IT department and empower the citizen developers. Here are some of the ideal properties to look for in an ideal low-code/no-code platform.

    1. Built for citizen developers: low-code/no-code platforms are designed to ease the workload of IT teams and enable non-tech staff to create solutions. If the platform has a complex user interface, ditch it! Similarly, if it's difficult to learn or use it's not worth your team's time.

    2. Composable: Your platform should adapt as your business grows. Think of it like Lego, not Jenga. Some platforms are like Jenga towers – any change can cause a collapse. But platforms like Darwinbox have a special microarchitecture that lets you make detailed changes without risking overall stability.

    3. Scalable: It's obvious that as businesses expand, their tech requirements change. That's why having a platform that can easily grow with you is essential. However, when you scale up, there's a genuine concern about security and compliance. Platforms like Darwinbox tackle this by using their own built-in security and compliance features, such as audit trails, data protection, and ensuring that data stays where it's supposed to.

    4. Ability to replicate: App extensibility is great. But a great platform offers you the ability to decouple and replicate the feature enhancements, apps, and process automation. For example, For example, if your non-technical team in India creates an asset management app, you can detach and replicate it for other teams worldwide. This multiplies your efficiency by saving developer time while upholding security and compliance.

    5. Seamless Adoption: The last thing you want from your citizen is a haphazard mish-mash of UI that makes the user experience a nightmare. This will also negatively impact user adoption and as such the effectiveness of the app itself. Instead, platforms like Darwinbox Amplify allow a seamless extension of a uniform UI, which positively aids employee experience. It also allows the admin to push the new apps on mobile apps and web apps which makes adoption much easier.

    In The End

    The rapid advancement of technology has ushered in an era of unprecedented disruption, transforming industries and reshaping the way we live and work. Yet, it has also led to a rather ironic conundrum: there's not enough talent to keep up with the very tech-driven revolution it has ignited. In fact, according to Forrester, there's a deficit of 500,000 software developers in the U.S. alone.

    Citizen developers offer a promising solution to the tech talent shortage, but they can also pose security and compliance risks. Darwinbox Amplify and Studio are built with a robust microarchitecture and modular approach, empowering citizen developers while ensuring security and compliance.

    Amplify transforms the Darwinbox platform into a digital toolkit, allowing granular, module-wise augmentations without compromising system-wide stability. By providing the ability to leverage native Darwinbox security and compliance, Amplify fosters collaboration between citizen developers, IT, and leadership, mitigating risks and enhancing productivity.

    At the same time, Darwinbox's Studio module, with its pre-packaged integrations, 3000+ app connectors in Darwinbox Marketplace, and custom integration recipe builder, drastically reduces the time to value for common integration scenarios.

    In an age where innovation and security must coexist, Darwinbox Amplify emerges as the bridge that connects the ambitions of citizen developers with the imperative of compliance.



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