The untold tale of citizen developers in the manufacturing industry

April 4, 2022
Citizen developers will benefit organizations by reducing the workload on IT teams.

By Chintan Jain, director of product marketing with Kissflow

A study revealed that manufacturing companies will have a difficult time filling more than 50% of roles that will be open in their organization in the next decade. According to the report, this problem will be caused by a shift in skill sets needed to operate the new technologies that manufacturing companies will make use of.

From current indications, digital skills, data analytics, programming, and other computer skills are fast becoming an essential part of manufacturing processes. This rise in IT requirements is not being matched by a resultant increase of IT capabilities mainly because IT workers with this skill don’t readily go into manufacturing. To keep up, manufacturing companies either have to invest in potentially expensive and scarce IT departments or opt for less complex alternatives like citizen development.

Citizen development might hold the answers that manufacturing companies need to cover up the IT deficit that is about to hit them. According to Gartner, many large enterprises will have up to four times more citizen developers than actual IT professionals. Of course, there are pros and cons to this movement, but the fact remains that citizen developers will benefit organizations by reducing the workload on IT teams while also saving cost and time.

Why Is there a need for citizen developers in the manufacturing industry?

A citizen developer is not an actual IT professional. Yet, they’re tech-savvy enough to build apps that improve productivity and performance using no-code automation software. On one hand, the major reason why citizen developers are going to be more prominent in the manufacturing industry than before is to make up for the gap created by shifting skill set requirements in the industry. On the other hand, manufacturing industries stand to gain if they go along with this move and leverage all the benefits that citizen development has to offer.

The manufacturing industry is a fast-paced one and the success of an enterprise is often hinged on how well they maximize efficiency. Citizen development provides an opportunity for manufacturing firms to streamline processes and improve operations by leveraging all the modern tools that facilitate this without investing in an overly bogus IT department.

In the first place, citizen developers seem to be a much better candidate for handling innovation in manufacturing processes. Conventional IT teams may find it difficult to develop tools that are tailored specifically for the needs of the various units and specializations in a manufacturing firm. Also, IT staff are often too busy maintaining current systems, and developing new tools that improve operational efficiency might be difficult.

That’s not to mention the fact that citizen developers are in a much better position to develop the applications that solve the biggest and most important problems. Because their roles are not primarily IT-related, citizen developers often have a much deeper understanding of the tasks, processes and workflows within the organization. This allows them to develop new applications that solve their operational problems and other related problems. Since they have years of experience and insights regarding the problem, citizen developers can build useful applications that solve the actual problem.

By adopting citizen development, not only are you solving the problem of shortage of developers, but you are creating a way to boost efficiency without spending too much money and time. Non-tech workers who identify problems that require improvement no longer have to wait to get IT involved in solving these problems. This is also less distracting for your IT teams since it enables them to focus on more strategic work while the staff (citizen developers) develop their own applications that solve their own problems.

Use cases for citizen development

The main idea of citizen development is to leverage the knowledge that you already have within your company to eliminate IT backlogs. This can mean a lot of things, especially in manufacturing industries. In this case, your citizen developers are not programmers or tech gurus. They may be your machine operators, design professionals, process engineers, maintenance engineers, and so on. This indicates that the possible potential use cases of citizen development are numerous even in a manufacturing company. Some likely options include: 

●      Create apps that solve the efficiency and innovation needs of your organization without involving IT professionals. These apps can be developed internally to solve problems of the general workforce or to specialized teams.

●      Develop preventive-maintenance tools for each team or department rather than waiting on multiple developers to implement an enterprise-wide solution.

●      Update systems, troubleshoot issues, eliminate bugs and other similar problems without the aid of IT.

Future scope of citizen developers in the manufacturing industry

Citizen developers are, no doubt, going to be an essential part of the manufacturing industry in the future. The big question to ask is what will manufacturing look like once every worker can build the software they need to help them manufacture products better and faster.

Employers are starting to catch on to the fact that there’s a long list of readily accessible tools that can free up valuable time that most workers can be trained to handle. This will effectively free up the IT team to focus on high-level tasks.

As more companies discover the power of no-code tools, we get closer to a future workplace where the power of developing apps will be accessible to everyone…not just those that can write codes. This will also make it easier to deploy new tools instead of staying tied to an old piece of software because of the hassles of development.

With enough encouragement and incentives, managers and senior executives will be able to prompt more regular professionals to turn toward citizen development. If this future is actualized, manufacturing firms will be able to give app-development power to the workers that need it the most.