How to become a citizen developer: 5 steps to take charge of your company’s automation success

How to become a citizen developer: 5 steps to take charge of your company’s automation success

Digital transformation has changed the idea of a workforce. Businesses are now under more pressure to upskill and reskill their employees in order to address new challenges induced by the pandemic. The lack of professional software developers on the market has become a catalyst for citizen development culture. More and more business users are empowered to automate business workflows and processes with low-code/no-code solutions. “How to become a citizen developer?” is one of the most-searched-for questions these days, and we’re going to answer it in this blog.

By leveraging citizen development, many organizations were able to streamline their business processes and automate workflows without the involvement of IT teams. As the low-code/no-code market continues to grow, the demand for citizen developers among SMBs and enterprises will increase.

In this blog, we aim to answer the “how to become a citizen developer?” question for both employees looking to mastering new digital skills with the airSlate Academy, and business owners interested in fostering citizen development culture within their organization.

What is a citizen developer?

A citizen developer is a business user with little-to-no technical background capable of building applications that automate business processes and workflows without coding #nocode #automation @airSlateAcademy Share on X

Why do businesses introduce citizen development, also known as “self-serving innovation”? The main reason often lies in the inability of IT department to deliver new IT solutions on time. As a result, businesses experience different types of consequences, as follows:

  • 62% – frustration among the forward-thinking employees
  • 50% – inability to meet key strategic targets
  • 49% – miss cost reduction opportunities
  • 48% – loss of competitive edge

When leveraged alongside their IT department, citizen developers can help address the following business challenges:

1. Lack of skilled developers

According to Forrester, citizen development, once an experimental concept, has evolved to replace essential applications. Currently, 39% of organizations utilize low-code platforms to enable non-IT developers, and 27% have plans to adopt this approach in the coming year. The deployment of no-code solutions at the enterprise level allowed more businesses to leverage their non-technical workforce, thus minimizing the load on strapped IT teams. This way, organizations can not only optimize their existing employees and resources at hand but also significantly reduce employment expenses.

2. The growing need for applications

The ever-increasing need for business applications stems from the previous challenge. According to the IDC, the number of apps increases exponentially on a daily basis and is predicted to exceed 500 million apps developed and deployed using cloud-native approaches by 2023. Strapped IT departments are often unable to deliver the applications within the needed time frame to satisfy specific business needs. Leveraging citizen developers, however, can help address this challenge.

3. Insufficient productivity

As indicated by ZDNet, no-code solutions can accelerate app development by up to 10 times while consuming 70% fewer resources compared to conventional methods and workflows. No-code tools allow citizen developers and/or automation engineers to build business applications faster due to the pre-configured sequence of actions and blocks of code. For instance, airSlate workflows use pre-configured no-code bots to automate specific tasks. Overall, this results in significant savings in time and resources and eliminates the need for outsourcing developers to assist IT teams in coping with a heavy workload.

Don’t know how to kick-start you career in citizen development? Watch the video below to learn more:

For more videos like this, please visit airSlate’s official YouTube channel

Citizen developer salary range

The concept of a citizen developer doesn’t imply a specific profession, but rather a scope of tasks a business user can solve within a given organization. This is why the “how to get a job as a citizen developer?” question refers to a situation where employees are hired “from within”, rather than looking for an outside candidate. In each particular case, specialists involved in low-code/no-code app development, business process automation, workflow automation, etc., are referred to as citizen developers.

Occupation titles such as process automation engineer, workflow automation specialist, rapid application developer all fall under the “citizen developer” category depending on the business needs they are supposed to address. And the range of skills required from these specialists may differ significantly depending on their responsibilities.

On the topic of citizen developer compensation, the numbers may vary. According to ZipRecruiter, in 2023, the average annual pay for a citizen developer in the United States is $129,846. That’s approximately $62.43 per hour, which is equivalent to $2,497/week or $10,820/month.

According to Glassdoor, the average base salary of a workflow automation specialist in the US is $96,309. Payscale defines a process automation specialist’s salary range between $65,000 and $110,000 a year. Their salary may more or less vary depending on the level of work experience, as shown on the chart below:

Process Automation Engineer average salary

4 key citizen developer skills

Most SMBs and enterprises planning to or already fostering the citizen development culture are usually looking for a specific skill set in their employees:

  • Knowledge of an organization’s operational needs and business processes

Unlike software developers who are typically not involved with the business side of an organization, a citizen developer understands the nature of organizational inertia, inefficient business processes, and bottlenecks. Leveraging no-code tools allows citizen developers to address these challenges faster without the involvement of IT.

  • Advanced level of digital skills

Profound knowledge of an organization’s business processes is only half of the problem. To be able to create efficient business apps and/or automate workflows, a citizen developer must possess an advanced level of digital skills, including no-code bot automation, workflow analytics, document generation, and more.

  • Ability to collaborate with other departments

The use of low-code/no-code solutions allows organizations to increase the number of citizen developers across multiple departments. Ensuring seamless collaboration between the business and IT teams when building new functionalities capable of satisfying a company’s specific needs is one of the skills required from citizen developers.

  • Motivation to upskill

Being motivated to upskill is crucial in the ever-changing digital transformation scenery. The concept of a citizen developer is relatively new, so the only way to become one is through self-education. Free business process automation courses at the airSlate Academy allow students to master the no-code skills essential to building a career in digital transformation.

5 steps to become a citizen developer

Organizations leveraging automation to streamline business processes typically explore citizen development programs. In most cases, however, a citizen development practice doesn’t begin as a full-fledged, enterprise-level program. Companies that start small and test, iterate, and improve their process before scaling it to the larger organization, are those that end up winning.

As Borya Shakhnovich writes in Forbes, there are four ways to empower no-code citizen developers:

  • Leverage standard toolsets. Inform development staff about the standard low-code/no-code tools and enable access to them.
  • Explore hyper agility. Combine intelligent automation with agile practices, transitioning to a smart agile enterprise.
  • Maintain proper governance and control of shadow IT. Discourage using systems, devices, apps, and services disapproved by IT.
  • Empower no-code developers. Foster mentorship and ongoing support from IT.

So, how do you become a citizen developer under a similar program in your organization?

1. Reach out to the automation leader

The automation/IT leader is typically the one responsible for handling a citizen developer program. The first step to becoming a citizen developer is connecting with your organization’s automation leader to learn how to get involved with the citizen development program. If one is in place, they will be able to learn more about the standard tools used within their organization to avoid shadow IT practices. For instance, low-code solutions may require some knowledge of coding, while no-code tools can be operated by an end-user through a visual interface.

2. Join the reskilling/upskilling program

The next step is to bridge the knowledge gap by joining the reskilling/upskilling program or online courses for citizen developers. Some organizations leverage vendor-offered courses or in-person training that covers the basics of business process automation, document process automation, no-code bots, and other tools used in citizen development. Free business process automation courses are also available online via resources such as the airSlate Academy and other education platforms that touch on citizen development concepts.

3. Automate your first workflow

Once you’ve mastered all the necessary skills, it’s time to automate your first workflow. airSlate’s no-code Bots allow for automating a vast scope of workflows — whether it’s adjunct contracting, employee onboarding, or student application processing.

Try following this path to automate your first workflow:

  • outline the business requirements of the workflow
  • break down the requirements into logical steps, i.e. create a flowchart to visualize the workflow
  • use airSlate’s automation bots to mimic that flowchart and ensure it aligns with the initial requirements

Learning to become a good citizen developer is no different than learning any other skill—it takes observation, practice, and repetition.

4. Explore more automation opportunities

Here are a few other things you can do to grow as a citizen developer:

  • Think about other business processes that need automation in your organization.
  • Spread the word about your automation success to encourage other employees to explore the opportunities for automation in their area of work.
  • Help them identify the pain points and leverage the appropriate tools to address the challenges they face in their manual work.

5. Expand your skillset

Once you’ve reached a certain level of proficiency with no-code business process automation, it’s time to expand your skillset.

Discover the top 6 courses to become a citizen developer with the airSlate Academy:

1. Citizen Development: What’s It All About?

This course explains the key benefits and principles of work behind the citizen development trend for current business environments. It gives insights into who can be a citizen developer, what no-code and low-code tools are and how to use them, and how to keep development balanced. Discover how you can improve your career prospects by becoming a citizen developer in your company.

2. airSlate Fundamentals

This course is the perfect fit for users new to no-code automation. In this course, you will learn the airSlate basics and how to implement them to address practical business tasks. Explore the capabilities of the airSlate platform to learn how to configure an airSlate Workspace, design a Flow, streamline business processes using no-code Automation Bots, and more.

3. Business Process Automation

This free business process automation course will teach you how to streamline the most complicated business processes and save resources with airSlate. During this course, you’ll learn the benefits of business process automation with airSlate and its positive impact on an organization’s overall performance.

4. airSlate Bots: the Ultimate Guide

This course covers everything a citizen developer needs to know about airSlate’s no-code Automation Bots. You will learn the basics of setting up task automation using no-code Bot automation technology. By the end of this course, you’ll be able to create fully automated workflows, saving your business’s resources for higher priority goals.

5. Automation in Action: Industry Use Cases

This course is for more proficient citizen developers that are well-aware of airSlate’s mode of operation and who already employ the benefits of business process automation. The course covers industry use cases and demonstrates how businesses integrate airSlate into their working processes. With this course, you will learn how to enhance business process efficiency and save resources.

6. airSlate Workflow Analytics

This course is aimed at airSlate users who are already knowledgeable in workflow automation processes. Throughout this course, you will learn how to perform data analysis and performance analytics using airSlate functionality. airSlate provides handy dashboard reports, configurable analytics, and an audit trail to help you monitor actions in your Workspace in real time.

Ride the innovation wave with the airSlate Academy

Mastering no-code skills is an option for non-technical employees to get involved in the development of new digital experiences and apps. Becoming a no-code citizen developer is a great way to pursue new career opportunities within your organization, or shoot for a more rewarding job position elsewhere. By enrolling in upskilling or re-skilling programs, you can leverage the time saved on repetitive tasks and the technical knowledge to advance in your career.

Become a citizen developer and take charge of your automation success


1. What does a citizen developer do?

A citizen developer is a non-technical employee involved in the development of business applications for internal purposes (i.e. used within a department they work in), using low-code/no-code tools allowed by the IT department. A citizen developer is not a job title, but rather a responsibility, hence this professional doesn’t report to a business unit or function other than IT.

2. Why do citizen developers matter?

Citizen developers can benefit their organization by safely improving business processes, while also delivering the required metrics. By leveraging an effective citizen development program, an organization can not only boost employee morale, but also improve the efficiency of business operations by allowing IT to focus on more critical tasks.

3. How do you know if you’re a citizen developer?

Citizen developers are defined by the 3 main values: change-driven, advanced level of digital skills (low-code/no-code skills) and organizational alignment.

4. What is citizen-led automation?

Citizen-led automation is when non-technical business users create digital strategies and automate their routine workflows using special low-code/no-code tools. These efforts save time and ease the load on IT teams, allowing developers and engineers to concentrate on high-priority tasks.

5. What is workforce upskilling?

Upskilling, or reskilling, is a business activity aimed at retraining existing employees to help them gain new digital skills to operate in a new post-COVID reality. Upskilling/reskilling programs require smaller investment compared to hiring and training new workers. By upskilling/resklling existing employees, organizations can create a more well-rounded, cross-trained workforce, and increase team efficiency.

6. What is the difference between a citizen developer and a developer?

A citizen developer is a non-professional developer who creates applications using low-code or no-code platforms, often without formal training in software development. A developer, on the other hand, is a professional with expertise in coding and software engineering, typically possessing formal education and experience in developing complex applications from scratch.

7. Who should be a citizen developer?

A citizen developer is typically someone within a business or organization who, while not professionally trained as a developer, possesses a good understanding of the organization’s needs and can create simple applications or automate processes using low-code or no-code platforms. They should have a grasp of basic technology concepts and be willing to learn and explore new tools.

8. What is a citizen developer in Microsoft

In Microsoft, a citizen developer is a person within an organization who uses Microsoft Power Platform, a suite of apps and services, to create custom business solutions without extensive coding skills. They can build applications, automate workflows, and analyze data using tools like Power Apps, Power Automate, and Power BI, empowering them to solve specific business challenges.

9. What do you mean by citizen development?

Citizen development refers to the practice where non-technical individuals, often within organizations, create software applications or automate processes using user-friendly platforms without extensive coding expertise. These platforms, such as low-code or no-code tools, enable users to develop applications to meet specific business needs, reducing reliance on professional developers.