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The DIY and Low Code Revolution is Here: How I Became a Citizen Developer

TABLE OF CONTENTS
Jourdan Christopher Go
Product Manager (Digital Adoption and Gen AI) at Philip Morris, Analytics & Innovation Leader
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During the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, when uncertainties and anxieties were peaking and no one knew how long this would last, I witnessed firsthand the transformative potential of low-code tools. 

At the time, I was working in a law firm that had invested in various low-code and AI tools, but they had yet to gain traction among the lawyers. However, the pandemic changed everything; technology became a necessity.

As uncertainties loomed and anxieties soared in March 2020, the legal landscape was in turmoil. 

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, a complex set of policies in the US, aimed to provide financial aid to individuals and businesses affected by the pandemic. 

However, navigating these policies proved to be a daunting task for many, leading to widespread confusion and frustration. 

People didn’t know whether they were eligible for a grant or financial package, and if so, how much could they get from it. 

In the midst of this confusion, a team of lawyers approached us with a challenge: could we automate advice on eligibility for financial aid under the CARES Act? 

CARES Act visualization by CRFB.org

It was a daunting task, but it was also an opportunity to demonstrate the potential of citizen developers and low-code tools.

With the nimbleness of citizen developers and the aid of low-code platforms like Neota Logic, we set out to create the CARES Act Smart Advisor. 

In just two weeks, we transformed complex policies into a user-friendly application. Users could simply input their information, and the Smart Advisor would provide personalized guidance on eligibility for financial aid. 

It was a game-changer, offering clarity and reassurance to countless individuals and businesses during a time of uncertainty. The CARES Act Smart Advisor was a huge success. 

It was used more than 1000 times in the span of 30 days, providing much needed guidance to those in need during the pandemic, and from a strategic perspective, it generated dozens of leads for the firm for additional business. 

As I delved deeper into the world of low-code, I couldn't help but marvel at the democratization of technology unfolding before my eyes. Low-code development can expower ordinary citizens like you and me to create, innovate, and solve real world problems. 

From streamlining business processes to enhancing customer experiences, the possibilities are endless.

Citizen Developers are Solving Critical Problems on a Global Scale

The success stories of organizations leveraging low-code tools to innovate, respond to crises, and drive efficiencies are numerous and inspiring.

Innovating healthcare services

In the healthcare sector, the adoption of low-code platforms has led to remarkable innovations. 

Mercy Ships, a non-profit organization providing medical care to underserved communities, utilized low-code technology to streamline their patient management system. 

By developing a custom application using a low-code platform, Mercy Ships was able to improve patient data accuracy, enhance communication between medical staff, and ultimately deliver better care to those in need.

Deploying effective crisis response

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Albuquerque in New Mexico faced the daunting task of managing a surge in citizen inquiries related to the virus. 

To address this challenge, the city's IT department quickly developed and deployed a citizen-facing chatbot using a low-code platform. 

The chatbot, named "ABQ Together," provided residents with up-to-date information on COVID-19 guidelines, resources, and testing locations. This innovative solution not only helped alleviate the burden on city staff but also provided citizens with timely and accurate information during a time of crisis.

Optimizing for efficiency and profitability

In the retail sector, companies are leveraging low-code tools to drive efficiencies and boost profitability. 

Northgate Market, a chain of grocery stores in California faced challenges with manual inventory management processes. Northgate Market turned to a low-code platform to develop a custom inventory management system. 

The new system streamlined inventory tracking, reduced stockouts, and improved overall store operations. As a result, Northgate Market saw a significant increase in operational efficiency, leading to higher profitability and customer satisfaction.

These case studies illustrate how organizations across industries are harnessing the power of low-code tools to innovate, respond to crises, and drive tangible business outcomes. 

By empowering citizen developers to build custom solutions tailored to their specific needs, these organizations are unlocking new possibilities and driving meaningful change.

What makes a good citizen developer?

What's driving this DIY revolution? It's a perfect storm of innovation, fueled by technologies like low-code platforms, robotic process automation (RPA), and even generative AI like our friendly neighborhood ChatGPT. 

These tools are like cheat codes for software development, making it easier than ever for non-techies to get in on the action and start building their own solutions.

But it's not just about the tools—it's also about the mindset. 

Citizen developers are natural-born problem solvers.

They are always on the lookout for ways to streamline processes, automate tasks, and generally make life easier for themselves and their colleagues. 

They're the ones who see a clunky spreadsheet and think, "Hey, I bet I could turn this into a slick web app with just a few clicks."

The heart of citizen development is collaboration. 

Citizen development is all about breaking down silos and getting people from different departments and disciplines to come together and share ideas. 

After all, two heads are better than one, right? By pooling their collective brainpower, these DIY devs are able to come up with solutions that are truly greater than the sum of their parts.

Citizen developers enable others to have agency. 

But here's where things get really interesting: the rise of citizen developers isn't just about making life easier for employees—it's also about unlocking a whole new world of opportunities.

By empowering individuals to take control of their own digital destiny, organizations are laying the groundwork for a new generation of entrepreneurs. 

Think about it: someone who builds a killer app to solve a problem in their own department might just have what it takes to turn that idea into a full-fledged startup.

A good citizen developer can translate industry knowledge into innovative solutions that drive real business value. 

The rise of citizen developers is paving the way for faster innovation, reimagining the role of IT, and creating a new breed of developers who are also subject matter experts in their business domains. 

These are individuals who understand the intricacies of their industry inside and out, and who can communicate to different stakeholders how technology can provide solutions for specific business goals.

Getting started as a citizen developer

With the tools we have available right now, you don't need a fancy degree or years of experience to dive in. 

Thanks to the proliferation of low-code platforms and online tutorials, anyone with a bit of curiosity and a willingness to learn can start building their own apps and automations in no time.

1. Start by identifying a problem or pain point in your organization that could benefit from a custom solution. 

Maybe it's a clunky manual process that's eating up valuable time, or a data analysis task that could be automated with the right tools. 

Once you've got your problem in mind, take a look at the low-code platforms available and see which one best fits your needs.

2. From there, it's all about experimentation. 

Don't be afraid to dive in and start playing around with the tools—after all, the best way to learn is by doing. 

And don't worry if you hit a roadblock or two along the way—that's all part of the learning process. Reach out to your fellow citizen developers for advice and support, and don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

The rise of citizen developers is not just a trend, but a movement—one that's poised to revolutionize the way we think about software development and innovation. 

By empowering individuals to take control of their own digital destiny, organizations can unlock a world of opportunities, driving entrepreneurship, innovation, and value creation for years to come. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start building!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jourdan Christopher Go
Product Manager (Digital Adoption and Gen AI) at Philip Morris, Analytics & Innovation Leader
Jourdan is a seasoned Analytics & Innovation leader with 9+ years of experience in consulting, business intelligence, and digital transformation. Known for driving transformative change and identifying impactful AI use cases, he excels in establishing robust analytics, innovation, and IT operations practices.
Analytics
Innovation
Product Management
GenAI
IT Operations
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