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By Kieran Saunders, senior business consultant at FileMaker

Software development has long been seen as an important skill. Initially when someone said they wanted to become a software developer, it would require years of training, practice and experience. However, today software development can be carried out by almost anyone with little technical knowledge required.

The rise in low code platforms is fuelling this capability within businesses and unleashing a new generation of business coder.  It has become far easier and accessible for employees unskilled in IT to become a citizen developer, creating new business applications sanctioned by corporate IT.

Low code platforms provide the opportunity for citizen developers to build apps which may not be complex, but can integrate with existing systems which are already in place. For businesses, this means there wouldn’t be the need to completely change the IT infrastructure to adapt to a custom app in order to solve inefficient processes and improve customer experience.

The coming years are set to see a surge in the growth of low coding; Gartner predicts 70 per cent of businesses will have citizen development policies in place by 2020. However, for companies to adapt to this development, they must be open minded to the opportunities presented by low coding and incorporate them into their wider business strategy.

Changing the business mind set

The main challenge for low code platforms and citizen development is finding where it can fit into the business structure. Normally, a technology development is purely created within the IT domain, with no integration from other areas of the business. If an employee outside of the IT department creates a custom app, it can halt the integration process, as either the IT team will need to take over or external experts will be drafted in by executives to ensure it is suitable for business needs.

However, as digital transformation is becoming increasingly central to business success, companies and their high level management need to adapt to the change of departments integrating within the business and lines starting to blur. Agility and the adoption of technology across the business is the first step, but ensuring the company is adapting to this change and making room for innovation is also crucial. Without this, citizen developers will not be able to thrive and businesses will ultimately miss out on lost opportunities.

How low code platforms create results

One of the underlying benefits of citizen developers is their knowledge of the business, its daily processes and what is required in order to improve efficiencies within the organisation. The end result will be a custom app fit for the business’s own needs, compared to an off-the-shelf app which has a one-size-fits-all approach.

Eoin Kavanagh is the managing director of Granby Sausages, which manufactures a range of pork and beef products to consumers. Having completely overhauled the business’s internal processes by creating a custom app on a low code platform, he understands the importance of getting creative to solve company needs. Eoin says, “Previously when we were completely paper-based, we would waste time hunting through filing cabinets to find the correct documentations. However, as we now have developed and deployed our own custom app and incorporated it fully in our food production, we are able to quickly pinpoint any information required.”

Ultimately, the business can see development occur quickly and gain quick wins with low coding, compared to businesses working with external companies. Businesses can also gain access to functionality which could take citizen developers years to learn if coding more traditionally, compared to on a low code platform. This responsiveness of the custom app solves business issues quickly, efficiently and ensures employees have the right tools to complete the job successfully. By focusing on what the app does, not the how, developers can concentrate on the functionality and user experience of the custom app, rather than the routine code.

A recent study revealed 43 per cent of smartphone users and 41 per cent of tablet users are unimpressed with the corporate mobile apps they’re expected to use at work. It’s clear businesses need to ensure they’re creating apps which has employee needs at the heart of their development.

The key to unlocking code

Once businesses realise the potential of low coding, it opens the doors to a new breed of software development within the company. Having two or three citizen developers working on a custom app within the business means a greater number of company issues can be resolved. Start with a small project and then see how it has the potential to grow into something bigger, especially as development can occur across iPad, iPhone, Windows, Mac, and the web. In house development doesn’t mean businesses are alone. Platforms such as FileMaker provide online training and support forums for expertise on prototyping, development or deployment issues citizen developers may be experiencing. Controlling the custom app development in house with a skilled citizen developer has the potential to create new opportunities for the business. With the right tools available, companies can create a customised solution to solve their real company issues, resulting in a tailored strategy which can only be offered through creating a custom app.

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