Let citizen developers drive business innovation

  • 28 Nov 2023
  • Minute Read
low code platform

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This article is a webinar review. The webinar featured John Rymer Vice President/Principal Analyst at Forrester Research and Charles Lamanna Corporate Vice President for Low Code Application Platform (LCAP) at Microsoft presentation.

You can view the video here... If you want to learn more about low code platform it's well worth watching. 

Below are the webnair slides.

It's possible you may have come across the terms ‘low code’, ‘citizen developer’ and think marketing hype

If you are inquisitive enough to wonder what low code application development is?

  • Why companies should consider low code platform.
  • How such platforms foster collaboration between the business and developers.
  • How to govern a low code app development in your organisation then read on. 

Let us begin by defining low code development. 

The development approach uses products and or cloud services. Developers use visual tools, code libraires. Drag, and drop screen design, declarative techniques instead of programming. 

The business model is available to all at low or no cost as a self-service low code platform. At least to begin with. Costs generally rise in proportion to the business value of the platform.

Such platforms move away from writing lines of code to invoke commands held in libraries. To something that is more like workflow or processed diagramming approach.

Forresters research suggests low code platforms begun to take off in 2010. As organisations came out of the 2008 recession. 

Many organisations recognised the need to increase efficiencies. They needed to automate interactions, decisions, actions, reactions. 

  • Organisations needed solutions to grow their revenue.
  • Enhance their customer experience. 
  • Develop their products and services. 
  • Improve their ability to innovate.
  • Increase their market to influence and increase brand reach.

To achieve this many organisations placed tremendous emphasis upon innovation. Particularly Customer software, mobile applications. 

Demand for developers far exceeded availability. 

Besides cash strapped organisations needed faster development cycle at a lower cost. A low code platform bridges the gap between developers and user contribution. Software that users build is more likely to solve business challenges. As users generally know what is really going on in the business.

Besides no organisation. Has all the development talents they need to deliver the software they need. 

Interestingly Forrester carried out developer research (2018-19 - see PowerPoint slides). Half of all developers are using or plan to use low-code platforms. Intriguingly all sectors appear to utilise low code platforms.

Reasons they gave to improve effectiveness and drive their costs down.


In healthcare patient treatment path can be very complex. Obstetrics is very different from paediatrics. 

Patient paths need to be coordinated. 

Hospital system software must allow each participant in a journey to know what had happened previously. Access to the information about their patients’path is a prequiste to succussful patient journey. Even if the data is outside the clinician’s own speciality.

Such software was built by a practitioners’ not by developers. 


A commercial property manager has a number of cases. They manage multiple incidents and numerious contracts. 

Management information is often in people's heads. 

On faxes, spreadsheets, emails, or someone’s else desk. 

An application allows silos of information to be shared with authorised personal. Such data can provide a lot more intelligence about what is going on with their operations. What is critical and needs resolution. This sort of application has been built. By developers and front-line business operatives.

It is all about speed and flexibility throughout the business.

There is an assumption, developers will want to shy away from the low-code platform.

Forrester research suggests. Half the developer community has adopted or has plans to use low code.

The research indicated an interesting drop-in developers saying no plans to use low code platform (PowerPoint slide12). 

Why  adopt a low-code platform? 

Initially the primary motivation. Speed of development and implementation. These days that is a given.

Today the answer is front line employees can build and deliver apps. Removes having to wait for central IT app development and implementation.

The result more, faster cheaper software. Fewer employees are resistant to using apps. Because employees use apps on their phones and may be involved in building apps.

Besides many organisations could not afford to employ developers. To build all the apps they require.

Forrester’s report: (see PowerPoint slide 16)

  • 65% of organisations have an app development backlog. 
  • 37% of organisations still have paper processes to manage critical operations.
  • 69% of organisations want to accelerate digitalization.

The primary reason to utilise artificial intelligence and business processes need to be digitalized.

Research suggests quantitative benefits, for low-code, 70% less cost.

Apply a tradional software budget to low code app and you get almost three times as many apps.

A low code app produces 362% return on investment over 3 years

Successful software involves collaboration between business and IT employees.

Frontline staff know what is required.

Developers know how to design, use data and code efficiently.

Many organisations have core backbone legacy bespoke software.

To update or replace such software. Would necessitate considerable budget not to mention business continuity problems. 

An example of mismanaged IT project implementation TSB IT meltdown

Using connectors low-code platforms can utilise legacy software. And allow business users, customers to have modern app capabilities and interface. For example, apps with machine learning, conversational bots. 

Often a question is raised does low code apps result in shadow IT?

Shadow IT refers to unmanaged tools like Access, Excel. The issue with these tools. Data is held on the device and management might not know what employees are doing with these tools. Employees often print reports. Management input the figures into their spreadsheets. Possible transposition errors. Not to mention unnecessary duplicate workflows.

A minimal code platform is managed and not held on the device. Data can be analysed without having to request data from employees.

In today’s fourth industrial revolution world. If businesses fail to digitalize, they are likely to fail.

Successful digitalization requires business developers. 


  1. Business developers know what processes need to change and in what order. 
  2. They are not enough developers. 
  3. Most organisations do not have the budget they require to digitalize business processes. 

Minimal code should not mean no IT involvement.

Successful innovation requires collaboration. 

  • IT knows how to keep things secure.
  • Comply with governance, compliance, integrations, and scalability.
  • Professional developers are expert in app architecture, data efficiencies.
  • Business employees are experts in solving business problems. 
  • Low code governance

    Implementing traditional governance rules upon low-code development is likely to stifle innovation.

    PowerPoint slide 29 illustrates a low code governance model. 

    Essentially, it is a fine balance between IT and business developers interests. No silver bullets. 

    How to get started.

    Low code platforms pricing is a negligible or free (at least to start) so you can experiment before committing. Read the small print. Some providers are not as up front as they should be with regards to costs. Think about the type of apps you are wanting to build (look at PowerPoint slide 34). Some low code platforms might fit one or two requirements.

    Case studies


    Standard Bank

    Standard Bank is a large bank in Africa. In their case they have Office 365 and teams. They started to dabble in PowerApps for example currency management. Physical asset management and schedule repairs for ATM’s. By finding lots of early wins. Users were able to get the budget support and leadership support they required. Using their local environment and not employing professional developer’s unless really necessary. Cotzen developers went on to produce in an incremental fashion. Over 200 different applications using Power Apps.



    Schumberger employees around 100,000 employees. Alan Chai, Principal Program Manager is not a professional developer. 

    He is what you would call a typical citizen developer. Alan built a series of applications for people management expertise and registration. Mr Chai even built things like invoice and order management and he was even able to build a Power App in two days. That app generated over $7,000,000 in cash flow savings. With these types of quick wins, he was able to keep investing in efficiencies. He went on to train 120 other citizen developers for Schlumberger.

    About the author 

    Christopher Bird

    Building your own Power App, BI solution, or automated workflow can be a mind-blowing experience. It can also be a nightmare. Particularly when you begin with a blank screen. My advice, get professional help as and when you need it. That's what successful people do.

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