Citizen Developers Love Creating Apps: Survey

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While professional developers and engineers may never be able to shake the curmudgeonly reputation they’ve earned, a new study suggests citizen developers are more than happy to pick up the slack.

Apple subsidiary FileMaker has released a survey showing that, in addition to helping in-house or contract developers focus on high-level tasks, citizen development is actually well-received by those who do it. While 83 percent of respondents said writing their own apps helped them forge a better workflow, just under half (48 percent) suggested it actually makes them happier at work.

There could be a correlation between happiness and results here, too: 46 percent of apps written by citizen developers were up and running in under four weeks. Almost three-quarters of those apps were in use at the company before 90 days.

Apps created by citizen developers often occur at smaller companies. FileMaker reports that 52 percent of those simpler apps pop up at companies with an employee count of between 5 and 99, with the remaining 48 percent split fairly evenly between ‘medium’ companies (100-999 employees) and those with more than 1,000 employees.

Companies tend to parse a lot of data, and that’s the type of app most commonly designed by a citizen developer. ‘Reporting and analysis’ claims 46 percent of all citizen-developed apps, and common CRM functions such as managing a customer database or inventory rank just below that, with 33 percent each.

But the citizen developer isn’t just an intern or office assistant, and they’re not doing it full-time. Some 34 percent of these citizen developers have a supervisory role, and only 12 percent report having any sort of computer science background. Around 42 percent say they spend less than five hours weekly developing and maintaining apps.

New tools are making that development process easier, too. Google recently endorsed citizen development in a big way with App Maker, a platform that links directly to Google services such as Maps. It also integrates with several third-party services that a company may already be using, such as Freshdesk and DocuSign.

The results of FileMaker’s survey are a good sign for office employees who want to create their own bespoke solution for minor issues, and equally good for dedicated developers. With less on the ol’ //TODO list, professional developers can focus on some of the larger tasks that need to be handled and supported. User engagement and enjoyment suggest citizen development is also not something developers will have to spend a lot of time shepherding along. We say: let them code!

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