The Citizen Developer

Artificial Intelligence and the Citizen Developer

AI is changing the tools and platforms used by the citizen developer, fast, and in a very good way.

Citizen development of applications in the enterprise is becoming more "normal" with every passing day. The veteran industry watchers at Gartner, for example, predict that, by 2024, 80% of technology products and services will be built by "those who are not technology professionals." The market mavens at Statista see a rise in global low-code platform market revenue, which was valued at almost 22.5 billion U.S. dollars in 2022, to reach approximately 32 billion U.S. dollars in 2024. "The market is projected to grow with a CAGR of 26.1 percent over this period," Statistica predicts.

How long could it take for the explosive emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) technology to come to the aid of the non-technology professionals building these applications? And how will their software-savvy professional colleagues receive it?

In a post on the Microsoft Cloudblog ("Power Platform is leading a new era of AI-generated low-code app development"), Charles Lamanna, Corporate VP in Redmond's Business Applications and Platform group said, "IT pros can expect increasing efficiency gains due to recent announcements of embedded AI in low-code platforms. Features like Copilot in Microsoft Power Apps, Power Automate, and Power Virtual Agents will further streamline solution development with natural language authoring and the ability to converse with an AI assistant."

Lamanna goes on to emphasize the velocity at which adoption is taking place, saying, "Similar features become increasingly important to organizations adopting low-code platforms, as 87 percent of CIOs and IT pros say increased AI and automation embedded into low-code platforms would help them better use the full set of capabilities, a trend we are seeing across low-code tools."

How Will This Impact the Citizen Developer?
The news is good! In a recent CNBC report, Dinesh Varadharajan, CPO at low-code/no-code enterprise platform provider Kissflow, opined that "The convergence of AI and low-code enables systems to manage the work, rather than humans having to work for the systems." The report also quotes Jim Rose, CEO of CircleCI, a continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD) platform provider, who observed that the large language models (LLMs) that serve as the foundation of generative AI platforms will ultimately be able to change the language of low-code. Rather than building an app or website through a visual design format, Rose said, "...what you'll be able to do is query the models themselves and say, for example, 'I need an easy-to-manage e-commerce shop to sell vintage shoes.'"

Applying Artificial Intelligence to Low-Code/No-Code Development
AI knowledge-management system provider CrushBank's namesake solution is, according to the company, "...upending traditional thinking about ITSM solutions with the introduction of an AI knowledge management system that uses machine learning (ML) and natural language processing (NLP) to transform enterprise data into knowledge." The company's AI-based knowledge-management systems integrate with a range of IT service and documents management platforms, including ConnectWise, ServiceNow, bmcREMEDY, Kaseya BMS, Autotask, Microsoft Teams and SharePoint, Liongard, and Confluence, among others, to automate many of the processes inherent in their functions that have the potential to slow down users.

According to CrushBank CTO David Tan, "We're taking knowledge management to the next level by actually leveraging the data that you've already built and compiled and the actual work that you're doing." He continues, emphasizing that "...AI is nothing without data, and every organization underestimates how much data they have at their disposal. We talk about the IT managed service provider (MSP) that is our average client. They can easily have a half million tickets in our system. The amount of gold and value in that data is almost incalculable and people just don't understand and don't appreciate it."

So, What's Holding Anyone Back?
Tan explained: "One of the dangers of low-code development has always been that you may build inefficient products with people [who] don't understand code, they don't understand security." AI, Tan said, provides the missing expertise without burdening the citizen developer to become  "more technical." "That's good news to the professional developers who usually have to clean up those issues."

Other benefits AI brings to low-code development come from the inclusion of the experiential data generated by the customer's own operations. "At the end of the day you need real examples of problems and resolutions fed into large language models (LLM) to help understand how that works and what it means," said Tan.

CrushBank CEO Evan Leonard advises citizen developers seeking to benefit from low-code/no-code platforms that incorporate AI to "think data, and what do you want to get out of it? And then what are the questions you think would be asked in that respect? Give us fifty to a hundred questions that someone would ask so we can train the data."

Expanding on the point, Leonard adds, "Bring your best data into the model, and don't just bring in everything. Also, it's important to really understand the data that you're now collecting."

Computing Crazes Collide
Information Technology has always been the home of the current craze. Early on, it was the computers themselves. Then various software platforms. Videoconferencing. Communications and Collaboration. Of course, there was and still is The Cloud!

Two of the latest "crazes," Artificial Intelligence and Low-Code/No-Code Citizen Development, are quickly colliding and combining to make it even easier for those who own processes and operations to realize their own software dreams. Stay tuned for more as it grows.

About the Author

Technologist, creator of compelling content, and senior "resultant" Howard M. Cohen has been in the information technology industry for more than four decades. He has held senior executive positions in many of the top channel partner organizations and he currently writes for and about IT and the IT channel.