As we've seen, the rise of the citizen developer is happening rapidly. New tools and platforms empowering both IT and non-IT business folks to rapidly build mobile solutions that address specific business needs. These solutions are being deployed in hours instead of years, and require no programming skills (at least if you use GoCanvas).
We speak and work with these citizen developers every day, and now we're excited to start sharing some of their stories with you. You can see our first citizen developer interview here.
Here is a brief chat we had with Jeffrey Broderick, Senior Product Manager for Next Step Living, a Boston-based home energy and efficiency company that was founded in 2008.
What does citizen development mean to you?
Citizen development means the ability to configure applications to suit our business needs, without the need for custom development. I want to allow our engineers to continue developing cool new tools while I take advantage of the existing configuration framework.
How did you get started with this stuff and taking charge of improving your work processes?
I have experience with developing mobile data collection tools and configuration tools, similar to the GoCanvas App Builder. When I came across GoCanvas, I not only wished that I had known about you sooner, but also enjoyed using the App Builder as a product in and of itself.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in getting started?
No challenges with the configuration software per se. It was very straightforward and comprehensive. Given a little time, I've been able to get a working grasp of all the areas I need very quickly. Some detailed challenges include:
- Would love more nesting of screens with respect to the table of contents. It would be nice to have a dashboard that can be drilled into in order to categorize screens under a parent.
- The close button is a little harsh with a multi-screen app. If fields are left blank, but required, I need to use the back button to navigate out. The close button squawks about required fields at a time when the user is mid-progress through the visit and doesn't necessarily care about required fields being complete.
- The largest challenge came with balancing the speed at which we can breath life into a new app vs. introducing this level of change within the organization.
What are some ways organizations can foster and support citizen developers?
Make the term "citizen developer" more prominent. Maybe as a role alongside system admin. Perhaps there are citizen developer webinars where software updates are provided, or roadmap details are shared, understanding that it can't be too specific. Maybe a certificate program to declare oneself a "Citizen Developer for Canvas" (paper and LinkedIn). I'm pretty sure that my company will appreciate the applications that we've been able to build without software engineering having to develop proprietary code.
What trends do you think we'll see in 2016 and beyond for citizen developers?
The way GoCanvas is going, you'd be hard pressed to justify building a data collection tool on your own, assuming some level of scalability and configuration are needed. I think hooks into the UI controls may be the next frontier for helping citizen developers with making the look and feel of the app a little more personal. This could include allowing for background color modification, boolean style switches, action bar themes, etc.
What's your favorite part of your job?
Solving problems. When faced with a problem or an inefficient way of producing, I love helping to drive the solution, whether it be working directly with engineering, or being a citizen developer to help solve the problem on my own.
When you're not working, what's your favorite thing to do in your free time?
Pre-kids, it was woodworking (aka solving problems and making things more efficient). With kids, it's spending time with them and helping to solve problems and make things more efficient.
Jeff, thanks for your time and all the great ideas here!