IT vendors and pundits alike (including yours truly) have been talking about the possibility for years now: that non-techie end-users would be able to assemble their own applications, on the fly, for whatever need they may have. Mashups and enterprise mashups come tantalizingly close to this reality. IT managers can do what they do best -- worry about scalability, uptime, security and standards compliance on the back end or in the backbone -- and leave many of the use cases for users themselves to sort out.
Easy as 1-2-3? Can 'citizen developers' do what it takes?
Ann All coined the term BYOA, or "build your own app," to describe the phenomenon.
This kind of thinking is leaching into the mainstream, as evidenced by a new BBC report by Fiona Graham which speculates that we are entering the era of BYOA:
"Creating apps - something that is done only by those initiated into the secret languages of computer software, the developers. Or is it? If you're putting together something on the scale of Adobe Photoshop from the bottom up, well, yes. But for the slightly less ambitious, there's a growing number of platforms that allow 'citizen developers' to put together business process applications tailored to their own way of working. And you don't need a line of code to do it."
This is a question we need to put to members of the enterprise IT community: Is BBC's Graham on to something, or is this mainstream media pipe dreaming?
She cites the cloud-based offering of Podio, which is essentially an online work platform that lets end-users build their own apps from an online app store and manage various business process and manage projects centrally, with a built in social layer.
Salesforce's Tim Barker says we're seeing more what he calls "citizen developers." But citizen developers have been around since PCs first became popular, he adds -- users have building building their own front-end apps for some time through the likes of Excel or Access. The difference now is mobile technologies and social media are putting new, easy-to-use tools into the hands of all end-users.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)