Citizen Developers: Why they May Be the Only Way to Successful Enterprise Mobility

October 26, 2016

citizen-developers Enterprise mobility boosts productivity, beefs up bottom-lines, engages employees, and many other benefits you have heard before. But to realize these benefits, you have to build great apps that your employees will use. The “how to” of building and maintaining enterprise-grade apps that deliver on the promise of mobility is a question many CIOs and their teams are exploring.

Why Most Enterprise Mobile Applications Crash and Burn

More than half of all the enterprise apps that are built need to be rebuilt within two years. There goes your enterprise mobility and your IT dollars. Most enterprise apps fail because employees do not use them, or they are rendered obsolete by new technology, trends or business strategy. A study by SAP concludes that enterprise apps are abandoned by employees because they:

  • Are too complicated to use
  • Lack the necessary functionality
  • Are not well integrated with the backend systems
  • Are not available on the right device
  • Are missing native performance, look and feel

The problem is further complicated by the acute lack of resources resulting from the remarkable growth in demand for enterprise mobile apps. Gartner says it will outstrip the organizations’ internal development capacity by five to one by the end of 2017. With remote workers with diverse responsibilities, armed with a variety of different personal and professional mobile devices, there’s an endless array of devices and platforms to be covered, and never enough time or developers. Unsurprisingly the apps that get built are often not the apps that are needed.

What’s Wrong with How Enterprise Apps are Developed Today

“In trying to suit the needs of all users, enterprises are throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks,” reports a recent study by SAP. Nearly a third of CIOs admit the users’ needs have never been truly identified in their organizations. Less than 30 percent of IT leaders said their organization designs and develops their mobile apps in house. Hence, most workforce apps are built away from the organizations that will use them. This means you often don’t know what to build and don’t have control over how the work gets done. Your developers might not identify with your employees’ needs, and often employees do not know what is possible. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the resulting apps will lack relevance and appeal for employees. They might incorporate features and data your employees don’t want or need, and might be missing the ones they would rather have. Enterprise app development will always be a time-compressed affair. But even when they do want to take the time, organizations can find it daunting to pin down users’ needs. They can be debilitated by the lack of process, structure, skill, and tool to understand user needs and interpret them into the desirable user experience. One growing trend is to let users dictate their own needs—but how?

The Rise of “Citizen Developers”

The answer is to empower employees and let them spearhead the design and development of the apps they are going to use. If they don’t have the development skills, give them the tools that make it possible to design mobile apps with little technical knowledge. App development platforms like TethrOn have short learning curves and allow non-IT users to take on some of the development and drive enhancements as mobile employees begin to change how work gets done. The overwhelming majority (81 percent) of business leaders believe it is important to enable non-IT developers, or “citizen developers” to deliver mobile apps. This means companies should enable their retail crews, field salespeople, services personnel, and others who are going to use a particular app to be involved in app design and development. Given the accelerated growth in the demand for mobile applications that deliver on the promise of enterprise mobility, and the corresponding scarcity of the people who can deliver them, we can expect to see a shift in the IT culture. Organizations that design game-changing apps will be the ones that have citizen developers taking charge of app development. Employees in different departments, trained by the IT department, guided by the leadership’s vision, and assisted by a platform like TethrOn will shape the future of enterprise app development. I’ll let this sink in for a while.