There are opinions on both the business and IT side about the role of citizen developers. As in politics, there’s no single consensus. But according to IBM’s Raising The Game Tech Trends study, pacesetting companies who embrace citizen development are maintaining their edge and gaining competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Long gone are the days when IT departments had total control over the technology in the companies they support. With all the rapid changes in technology, smartphones that can tap into apps at the press of a button and tons of tech savvy employees in the workplace, the IT landscape is much more complicated than ever before.

And employees, called citizen developers, who are comfortable providing business solutions using these new tech tools and cloud-based business application platforms are becoming even more prevalent.

Is Citizen Development Accelerating Innovation and Agility?

That depends on who you talk to. Business units are thrilled they can now get solutions to problems they had to wait months or years for in the past. IT departments worry about compliance to standards, security, data integrity, architecture, and systems integration issues.

But the bottom line is citizen development is here to stay. Finding a way to embrace the opportunity and work in partnership is key.

Let’s get back to basics for a minute. Why do citizen developers do what they do? To solve a business problem, or make getting work done more efficient. It’s all about helping achieve a better outcome. And that’s not a bad problem for a company to have.

This is not a new issue.

Way back in 2009, Eric Knipp, senior research analyst at Gartner declared, “The bottom line lies in encouraging citizen developers to take on application development projects that free IT resources to work on more complex problems. Citizen development skills are suited for creating situational and departmental applications like the ones often created in Excel or Access today. However, complex distributed applications and low-level, fine-grained developer decisions will remain in the hands of IT, while line-of-business applications will likely fit between the two and need to be carefully managed.”

Isaac Sacollick, Global CIO and Managing Director of Greenwich Associates, really nailed one of the drivers behind citizen development with this entry on his blog. “It’s also no secret that IT often fails to understand and translate business requirements adequately. When deep subject matter expertise is required to facilitate a relatively easy to implement technology solution, it can be a lot more efficient for a citizen developer working in the organization to develop a solution. Examples include data driven dashboards, departmental specific task management, lightweight CRM, or no-code content management systems (CMS).”

IBM’s Raising The Game Tech Trends study revealed that pacesetting companies (Pacesetters) believe that four key technologies – 1) Big Data & Analytics, 2) Cloud, 3) Mobile, 4) Social – are critical to their business success and adopt them ahead of rivals.

But they don’t accomplish their goals using traditional methods. Partnering is integral to how pacesetters plan and execute. Across every type of external partner and for every type of activity IBM found that pacesetters partner more.

They’re engaging less-conventional partners like citizen developers, clients, start-ups and academia to help drive innovation. About eighty percent of pacesetters use citizen developers. And their partnering strategy is bringing successful results – they’re more than five times as likely to significantly accelerate innovation of products and services.

To learn more about the state of citizen development, check out the following.