Article Overview

Citizen development promises to improve the productivity and effectiveness of project managers by making application and software development faster and less costly. PMI is committed to helping project managers stay on the leading edge of this important trend. 

Table of Contents

What is Citizen Development?
How Is Citizen Development Changing the IT Landscape? 
How Does Citizen Development Benefit Organizations?
Why is Citizen Development Relevant to Project Managers?
How Is PMI Encouraging Adoption of Citizen Development? 
What Educational Resources Does PMI Offer?

Project managers are increasingly reliant on technology to drive positive business outcomes and to enhance the efficiency of their work. That’s why we at Project Management Institute, the world’s leading not-for-profit association for the project management profession, have been so supportive of the emerging trend of citizen development (CD). 

Citizen development is the key to democratizing software and app development and empowering project managers to more fully harness the power of technology. At PMI, we’re dedicated to equipping project managers with the most relevant skills to deliver business value. We’re therefore working hard to educate project managers about the potential of CD to drive productivity and cost savings while providing the tools project managers will need to succeed in a CD world. 

In keeping with this commitment, here is a basic primer on citizen development and why it’s critical to the future of project management.  

What is Citizen Development?

Citizen development platforms use intuitive “low-code” or “no-code” tools, enabling employees with limited technology backgrounds to develop apps, software solutions and even enterprise-grade applications without having to learn to code. 

This has enormous implications for our profession. Project managers will be able to work in more agile ways – developing the software they need without having to rely on IT or tech experts. It also means that many more employees across the enterprise will be coding. Project managers will need to collaborate with IT departments and citizen developers to ensure applications are developed within the organizations’ governance frameworks. 

How Is Citizen Development Changing the IT Landscape?

Adoption of citizen development is growing exponentially. ResearchAndMarkets forecasts that the low-code application development market will surge from $4.32 billion to $27.23 billion by 2022 and grow roughly 45 percent annually during this period1. Ninety-one percent of businesses are either using or considering low-code/no-code application platforms, according to FTI Consulting. And Gartner estimates that the number of active citizen developers will be four times that of professional developers by 20232.

How Does Citizen Development Benefit Organizations?

As noted, CD will democratize software development, but it will also turbocharge digital transformation efforts within organizations. Eighty-six percent of IT decision-makers say the biggest challenge to digitally transforming their business is a shortage of software developers, according to FTI Consulting. Indeed, Forrester Research estimates that by 2024 the U.S. will have a deficit of 500,000 software developers3

Citizen development should significantly ease the burden on busy IT departments straining to cope with growing demands from business units. It should increase productivity, lower costs, and accelerate value delivery while helping organizations achieve outcomes more quickly and efficiently. 

But citizen development shouldn’t be implemented without some guardrails. To unlock CD’s full potential, organizations must create a framework for employees to develop and deploy applications that both comply with IT department guidance and mitigate risk. And employees – or the citizen developers themselves – must understand how best to safely develop, deploy, and operate within this organization-wide framework.

Why is Citizen Development Relevant to Project Managers?

As the change-makers within organizations, project managers will benefit from citizen development as they proactively drive change, execute transformation projects, and turn ideas into reality. Citizen development will ensure that project managers continue to be relevant and indispensable members of their organizations.

More specifically, citizen development will allow project managers and their teams to create business tools and solutions at every level of the organization, enabling them to focus on outcomes without requiring an exhaustive understanding of technology and coding. CD is thus a true value accelerator. It will facilitate quick decision-making and speed-to-market, and it will improve stakeholder understanding by more efficient sensing-responding. This is true whether project managers are working in traditional PM, Agile, Waterfall or Lean. Indeed, as project managers adapt to new ways of working, citizen development skills will enhance their project management capability and delivery.  

How Is PMI Encouraging Adoption of Citizen Development?

Our goal at PMI is to empower project managers by giving them the right tools to get to the right outcomes. We, therefore, aim to guide project managers in taking full advantage of citizen development, while maintaining IT governance and security compliance. We’re doing this at three levels: 

•    We’re helping project managers learn the foundations and best practices of citizen development. Our platform-agnostic educational resources provide an introduction to citizen development and outline best practices in citizen development methodologies. 
•    We’re helping unlock the full potential of citizen development to improve project productivity. 
Citizen development enables a “hyper-agile” way of working. With citizen development, project managers can take an idea and design, build, test and deploy apps faster and more cost-efficiently than before. They no longer need to rely on over-taxed IT departments and can focus more on outcomes. 
•    We’re helping ensure project managers use citizen development in a secure and scalable way. We provide methods and standards to develop and integrate new applications into existing infrastructure and governance models. These standards allow project managers to be IT governance and security compliant right from the start. 

As one of the earliest adopters of PMI’s citizen developer framework, Upendra Dharmadhikary, vice president and business head consulting of Tech Mahindra, an IT services company, said, “What PMI has done is quite innovative. Several customers in PMI’s network and the leaders of different companies are coming together and ideating to bring new topics to life. A project manager’s role is to get the job done, so it's very important to see that citizen development is about bringing new frameworks to life. As a business leader, I could try to create my own framework, but given the rapidly-evolving environment, the value of working with PMI is evident.” 

What Educational Resources Does PMI Offer?

PMI plans to introduce a full suite of training and certifications to help practitioners take full advantage of citizen development. Our first two offerings are already available:

•    The Foundation course is an e-learning training course that provides a comprehensive introduction to citizen development and best practices in the methodology.
•    The PMI Citizen Development Body of Knowledge (CDBOK™) is a centralized resource to help individuals and organizations understand best practices for implementing citizen development at scale. 

Our approach to citizen development offers professionals the ability to develop, deploy, and manage applications and solutions safely and securely in their existing enterprise IT environment. We believe it will speed the adoption of citizen development, increasing productivity, lowering costs, and empowering project managers to continue playing a critical role in the transformation of their enterprises. 


  1.  [1]  Low-Code Development Platform Market by Component (Platform and Services), Application Type, Deployment Type (Cloud and On-Premises), Organization Size (SMEs and Large Enterprises), Industry, and Region - Global Forecast to 2025
  2. [2]   The Future of Apps Must Include Citizen Development
  3. [3]  How To Harness Citizen Developers To Expand Your AD&D Capacity