citizen developers

Citizen developers as a force multiplier in the enterprise

Government agencies and "pacesetter" companies are leveraging the skills of "citizen developers" to bridge skills gaps in their workforce, according to a recent IBM survey, adding to the mounting evidence of crowdsourcing's traction in the enterprise.

Gartner defines crowdsourcing as "the processes of sourcing a task or challenge to a broad, distributed set of contributors using the web and social collaboration techniques." As Gartner analyst Eric Knipp described it in his recently published white paper, Use Crowdsourcing as a Force Multiplier in Application Development, crowdsourcing is a call for a custom application from an external developer community, the members of which expect to earn financial or reputational awards. (See also ADTmag's Crowdsourcing Application Development).

Garnering responses from more than 1,400 IT and business decision-makers across 15 industries, the survey was featured in Raising the Game: The IBM Business Tech Trends Report by IBM's Center for Applied Insights. It explored common traits of pacesetter companies, characterized by IBM as, "leading organizations that are achieving tangible business results from cloud, analytics, mobile and social technologies."

Organizations that looked to outside industry professionals were better able to close those existing skills gaps, executives reported, and saw greater collaboration and innovation across those technologies.

The organizations are twice as likely to turn to colleges and universities for product development and 70 percent more likely to engage with start-ups for execution, the report concluded.

"Pacesetters are companies that are outpacing their competitors in the marketplace," Sandy Carter, IBM's general manager of Ecosystem Development, told ADTmag. "And they're leveraging technology to get that competitive advantage. They're driving better business outcomes, whether it's stronger customer service, better customer experience, stronger returns on investment, or reduced cost."

A common thread among pacesetter companies in the IBM survey, Carter said, is an openness to creative partnering. "They're not just playing with partnering or doing on the side," she said. "They've embedded it into their DNA."

One example Carter points to is Esri, a developer of geographic information systems (GIS) software (and an IBM business partner), which regularly uses the GitHub open-source code repository to share and build apps for cloud, analytics, mobile and social technologies.

The Redlands, Calif.-based company also conducts hackathons and application challenges. Esri recently sponsored a "climate resiliency app challenge," which was won by a student team from the University of Minnesota working on a semester-long project to assess solar suitability in Minnesota.

"Through our efforts in events like hackathons and application challenges that appeal to citizen developers, we ensure that we have a pulse on what leading edge developers would like to do with geospatial -- and all of this informs our own roadmap," said Robin Jones, Esri's director of platform adoption, in a statement. "The outcomes are fast, beneficial and interesting for everyone."

Organizations that actively crowdsource ideas and technology assets with customers, partners and academia "drive deeper engagement for positive results," the survey report concluded.

This article originally appeared in ESJ, Enterprise Systems Journal, a sister site to GCN.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley.

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