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Gartner: Citizen developers will soon outnumber professional coders 4 to 1

To meet a coming wave of hyper-automation, IT organizations need to do a better job of partnering with professionals outside of IT to automate business processes and data integration, according to research firm Gartner.

Gartner defines hyper-automation as “a business-driven, disciplined approach that organizations use to rapidly identify, vet, and automate as many businesses and IT processes as possible.” The possibilities are so vast that IT can’t pursue them alone — and shouldn’t try to, Gartner distinguished VP, and analyst on software design and development, Jason Wong, argued in a presentation at the Gartner IT Symposium this week.

Instead of complaining about “shadow IT” efforts outside the control of the CIO, IT should engage with business unit developers to make sure they have what they need to get their work done.

This group includes “business technologists,” or trained, full-time developers who are embedded in a department like marketing. But it also includes “citizen developers” who know how to use no-code, low-code, or data management and analytics tools to automate processes for themselves and their teams. Gartner’s prediction: “By 2023, the number of active citizen developers at large enterprises will be at least four times the number of professional developers.”

IT organizations must break out of the mindset that the work done by these groups is trivial or insignificant, Wong said. “In fact, they are doing serious work. They create algorithms. They create user interfaces that make it easier for their teams to do their work,” he said. Often, they are creating new capabilities, not just making tweaks, he said. “They see the power of workflow and business logic.”

A prescription for business-driven automation

In recent Gartner surveys, only 42% of these workers reported that they were using tools specifically designed for them, such as robotic process automation software. Wong suggested that may be simply because they haven’t been offered access to those tools, which are often only made available to centers of excellence or other pockets within the organization. In contrast, 64% said they were working with database, data science, analytics, and AI tools, 59% said they worked with application development tools, and 45% said they worked with integration tools including data integration and API management tools.

As a result of their work, 82% say they are making their departments more effective, 68% say they are improving efficiency, and 63% say they are boosting business agility.

Wong’s prescription for organizations that want to get the most value out of business-driven automation includes:

  • Co-operate, take these teams seriously and work to amplify their skills
  • Co-own, provide access to a variety of tools, and include business technologists and citizen developers in communities of practice that promote excellence
  • Co-create, scale-up what can be accomplished by including these developers in multidisciplinary teams who plan big initiatives and help them understand broader enterprise considerations such as technology risk

For a win-win strategy, organizations should work to ensure their business achieves automation that makes it more effective and efficient, while also ensuring that whatever the business develops, IT can support, Wong concluded.

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