The software development ecosystem has evolved rapidly in the past decade. Open source environments, such as software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), unified communication as a service (UcaaS), logging as a service (IaaS) and desktop as a service (DaaS) are all very mature services that can currently be leveraged in development. In a similar vein, today’s modern software developers rely on a vast, evolving set of tools and services to help them keep up with rising demands of customers and bring solutions to market faster. However, this process requires a high degree of technical expertise and a specific set of skills.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for software developers, including software engineers, will increase to 25% between 2021 and 2031. This labor shortage has only been compounded by The Great Resignation. There are many reasons for this shortage, starting with insufficient training.

With many secondary education institutions not offering computer courses, this ultimately translates to less individuals entering the software development job market. Even for high schools and universities that do offer computer science curriculum, oftentimes educators fail to prepare students for practical uses of software engineering that can be leveraged in real world situations, meaning that students are not truly prepared to enter the workforce post graduation. However, amidst the current shortage of software developers already, tech companies need to strap up to begin tackling this issue head on.

Tech Skills’ Impact on Business

The current lack of talented developers is accompanied by severe implications for businesses. Without a strong software development team, businesses not only risk a halt in innovation, but they also face difficulty competing with others in the industry. This can impact the ability to meet customer demands and ultimately affect the revenue of a business. Beyond the bottom line being impacted, a lack of internal expertise and organizational knowledge is further contributing to the talent shortage and putting companies at risk.

Citizen Developers

To even begin closing this gap, businesses cannot focus solely on hiring professional developers to handle complex application development like compliance and security requirements. They must also usher in a class of citizen developers to create simple apps as a starting point to combat the developer shortage.

Despite the ongoing developer shortage, most businesses continue to require more enterprise technologies. As the demand for developers continues to surpass the supply of talent, the adoption of low- and no-code options reduces the barrier for entry into app development without the need to hire new software developers. These platforms eliminate the requirement for an in-depth understanding of programming, while still enabling citizen developers to program software with little previous coding knowledge. For these reasons, the role of the citizen developer may become central to business development.

Enable Low- and No-code Options

Training managers will play an essential role in the growth of citizen developers. However, core software developers and application developers must be trained with different focuses in mind. Application developers should own and leverage more low- and no-code offerings and components than a core software developer would.

Despite citizen developers needing minimal coding experience, information technology (IT) managers must provide clear training and support to unlock the full value of low- and no-code platforms. Initiatives should be put in motion for individual developers to learn required qualifications. Courses for non-technical developers should provide an overview of low- and no-code application development.

Citizen developers in training should also be guided by a mentor to help as individuals gain personal application expertise. A mentor can help ensure that the application development is free of mistakes, while also complying with governance requirements and internal business processes.

Creating Value for the Organization

Low- and no-code development that automates workflows can optimize business processes. By taking advantage of low- and no-code platforms, IT leaders can create more value within their business by putting more technical capabilities into the hands of business users.

It’s important to keep in mind several parameters when choosing to use a low- or no-code model for development. While a lack of software developers can be an incentive to leverage a low- or no-code platform, the decision should also be dependent on the organization’s stage of maturity, business need for customization and their competitive advantage.

Ultimately, citizen developers can free up skilled developers from handling more repetitive, tedious tasks that accompany digital transformations, allowing them to focus on more mission-critical tasks. While the concept of citizen developers is not exactly brand new, it’s an effective option for businesses tightening their budget in an economic downturn. It also helps organizations utilize all available talent, allowing individuals who may not have as much experience coding to bring their unique perspectives to the table in solving complex IT issues. Not only does it contribute to solving the talent shortage, but low- and no-code applications can be implemented quickly and typically cost far less than systems developed from scratch in-house.

Despite the ongoing need for more developers, training citizen developers can strengthen the current talent pool and enable businesses to continue innovating even in the midst of uncertain circumstances.