Business use of mobile apps is exploding and with good reason. As a result, many mid-market and enterprise companies now need dozens to hundreds of business workflow mobile apps for their workers. These mobile apps can yield big benefits in cost reduction, increased productivity, and worker job satisfaction.

But many of these organizations can’t keep up with the demand for a high number of custom-coded mobile business apps. It’s simply too costly and takes too long to go the custom-coding development route.

And in many cases, it’s not necessary to use custom coding, because new Rapid Mobile App Development (RMAD) platforms empower citizen developers who have just modest technical skills to create robust mobile apps for a fraction of the time and cost of custom coding. Gartner Research predicts that by 2022, 70% of software interactions in enterprises will occur on mobile devices and that more than half of all business-to-employee (B2E) mobile apps will be created by enterprise citizen developers using code-less tools.

Forrester Research projects the market for such citizen developer mobile no code/low code platforms will grow to $15 billion by 2020.

This is a big deal.

So, what’s the profile of a citizen developer? Citizen developers do not need true coding skills. Developing a robust mobile app with an advanced RMAD platform only requires skills similar to using PowerPoint and basic database queries. The best tools let you visually design the app screens by dragging and dropping buttons, photos, and other interface elements onto a canvas and then defining their functions and actions using plain English. If a particular citizen developer knows some HTML5 or JavaScript, they can do more; but that knowledge usually isn’t required.

And the most robust RMAD platforms empower citizen developers to create powerful mobile apps by:
  • Creating attractive, engaging, easy-to-use user experiences as easily as they create a PowerPoint presentation
  • Using a drag-and-drop interface to integrate with enterprise data in such sources as Salesforce, Quick Base, and web-hosted SQL databases
  • Providing users with full offline capabilities, so their apps work in remote locations or parts of buildings with poor signal coverage and then sync the data automatically when they next go online
  • Supporting complex logic that creates workflows that allow employees to get real work done in the field, rather than just displaying data on a dashboard
  • Controlling secure delivery of the apps for easy download to a global workforce

And all of this is achieved without the citizen developer writing a single line of code.

Some of the largest companies in the world are starting to take advantage of this inexpensive, agile way to create mobile apps. They understand that it’s the only way to meet the needs of their employees in a rapidly changing business world.

Here are just a few examples of mobile business apps created by citizen developers using RMAD tools:
  • Shipping and receiving personnel can quickly scan outgoing and incoming SKU shipping containers for damage and immediately report damaged goods with photos to quickly process refunds and replacement processing, all from the device in their hands.
  • Salespeople with an app can, right at the customer site, build a complete proposal and quote for the customer — including access to backend corporate pricing, inventory, and resource-level data, as well as cloud and public databases for, say, building codes, adding needed photos taken with their smartphone or tablet camera — and capture the customer’s signature to close the order, all in one meeting.
  • Commercial property managers can access full information about their properties, including floor plans, building permits, and Google StreetView, and can fill out work orders.
  • Insurance adjusters can file a complete accident report, including photos, audio statements from witnesses and owners, and signatures.

These RMAD tools make it possible for end users, and people very close to the end users, to swiftly and inexpensively create their mobile apps. They can easily iterate on new versions, adding new features as the need arises, and can quickly get them into the field.

IT plays a key role in defining design consistency guidelines, how the apps access and update enterprise data, and in handling security reviews. However, IT does not need to participate in lengthy requirements planning processes for many business process apps.

Information technology has flattened organizations, putting information into the hands of far more line-of-business personnel and enabling them to make informed decisions quickly. This next generation of rapid mobile app development tools is similarly taking the process of creating mobile business apps out of IT and placing it into the departments and divisions where they will be used. As a result, new apps are often being created by citizen developers in a fifth to a tenth of the time required for custom coding, and with similar cost savings. This is a revolutionary change in how business is being done.

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