Within the next five years, Citizen Developers will be responsible for building at least 25% of all new business applications. That is the rather startling claim being made by Gartner analysts ahead of the Gartner Symposium and ITexpo in Cannes, France next month.
So what is a Citizen Developer then? No, it is not somebody who creates avatars for immersive virtual world projects but rather, so says Gartner, a "user operating outside of the scope of enterprise IT and its governance who creates new business applications for consumption by others either from scratch or by composition".
Eric Knipp, a senior research analyst for the company, is convinced that citizen-developed applications will, over the next few years at least, start to leverage IT investments below the surface. The idea being that IT can then focus on the deeper architectural concerns that should be of most concern anyway, while the end users can concentrate upon 'wiring together' services within business process and workflow.
"Citizen development introduces the opportunity for end users to address projects that IT has never had time to get to" Knipp insists "a vast expanse of departmental and situational projects that have lain beneath the surface".
As long ago as 1982, when James Martin coined the term 4GL in his "Applications Development Without Programmers" book, this notion of application development performed by business users themselves has been floating about. So what's changed to push it into the limelight now? Knipp thinks the answer is cloud computing which has "unlocked the market for 4GL-style development environments delivered as a service" and predicts "rapid growth will occur through 2014 as cloud computing matures".
During the last Gartner Symposium in Orlando, which has just drawn to a close this week, Knipp identified four converging forces that are advancing the cause of Citizen Development:
Mass personalisation is custom tailoring by a company in accordance with its end users' tastes and references. End users start to become developers when they start to personalise software for their use. Mashup tools enable personalisation while allowing reuse of existing service-oriented-architecture investments. Ubiquitous access via mobile devices drives the need for further personalisation of content and applications.
Infrastructure industrialisation is coming via cloud computing, a model of delivering elastically scalable computing resources as a service over the internet. Cloud computing frees application development from infrastructure ownership.
Changing demographics are resulting from the retirement of baby boomers, and the maturation of "digital natives" means that the workforce will expect technology to "just work." The consumerisation of technology is not a trend for these people — it's a way of life.
Developer tool evolution resulting from stepwise advances in programming tools (programs used by software developers to create, debug, maintain or otherwise support other programs) has made application development more accessible than ever.