Project Management

Low-Code vs Citizen Development: Doing and the Management of Doing

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Citizen development is a disruptive approach to digital transformation and organizational innovation, where teams are empowered to turn ideas into applications using no-code/low-code technology. This blog provides insights, advice and practical knowledge from thought leaders and practitioners in Citizen Development.

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5 Top Citizen Development Myths Busted

Empowering Citizen Developers: Overcoming 5 Common Challenges Together

Citizen Development: The Path to Success Starts Small

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No Code, Big Bucks: How Citizen Developers Can Capitalize on the Future of Tech 


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By Mario Trentim

I often receive questions related to technical aspects of low-code software development and architecture as if these topics were part of citizen development. In this article, I want to address the difference between “doing” and “the management of doing”.

Considering “citizen development” is a new concept, an analogy with project management might be useful. Take for example an engineering project, is it mandatory that the project manager is an Engineer? The answer is no.


Low-code Software Development

Low-code is a visual approach to software development. How is that possible? Remember a couple of years ago when you wanted to create a website? You had to write the instructions using HTML:

Figure 1 – HTML example.


Or maybe you would use PHP, a programming language, to develop your website. Low-code means that you can drag and drop components to build your application. In the example of a website, you may use a low-code platform like Wordpress, Wix, and others.

Figure 2 – WordPress Theme (


Low-code platforms are evolving. With the aid of artificial intelligence, you can develop a website by answering a few questions with zero-code, using Wix ADI for example. And you don´t have even to drag and drop components using a low-code editor.

Figure 3 – Creating a website with ADI or Editor at


In summary, low-code abstracts and automates every step of the application lifecycle to enable rapid delivery of a variety of software solutions, not only simple websites. In my next posts, I will provide low-code examples in different industries, processes, and professions.

According to IBM Research, “Software development refers to a set of computer science activities dedicated to the process of creating, designing, deploying and supporting software.”


In other words, software development, either low-code or pro-code,

refers to a set of computer science technical activities.


Figure 4 – Systems engineering processes overview (Trentim, 2015)


As a technical discipline, software development includes designing and building the final result. Figure 4 describes a high-level overview of the technical processes to develop a system. There are best practices and approaches tailored to software development


Software development is the “doing”. Citizen development is the “management of doing”.


While software development focuses on architecture and best practices to design, build, deploy, and service an application, citizen development, in analogy to project management, focuses on understanding the needs, engaging stakeholders, combining best practices to manage the project constraints delivering value.


Citizen Development

Because it is a new concept, there are various definitions and interpretations of “citizen development.” According to Gartner, “a citizen developer is a user who creates new business applications for consumption by others using development and runtime environments sanctioned by corporate IT.”

The PMI Citizen Development framework takes a step further. A citizen developer is someone who applies business analysis, project management, and agile project management best practices combined with lean approaches and prototyping with the help of technical experts and IT, as needed, to make digital transformation a reality.

In other words, it is much more than low-code software development. A citizen developer can understand how a variety of technologies, including the Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, and more, are impacting business models, processes, and the way we work. A citizen developer manages “technology and transformational projects,” keeping an eye on the big picture and trends.

Figure 5 – Citizen development.


If you pay attention the Figure 5, you will find steps beyond the software development cycle (“the doing” or application development). A citizen developer might work in partnership with professional developers and IT professionals to build the solution. The citizen developer might be responsible for feasibility and value delivery, besides assembling the team and organizing the work, following best practices from the PMI Citizen Development framework.


As you can imagine, the “citizen developer” role, profession,

or function has yet to be defined and tailored

by organizations according to their needs.


In some organizations, all team members are citizen developers, meaning they understand the PMI CD framework and technologies (including, but not restricted to, low-code). Other organizations may have business analysts and business users embracing citizen development competencies. Project managers can benefit by acquiring citizen development skills and working closely with citizen developers.



PMI is embarking on a journey to transform the way we work. Citizen development is a framework, and it is also a broader concept. To conclude with an analogy, remember the Agile Manifesto and the revolution that started agile practices? Back then, agility was people working on small IT projects. Currently, we have agile Human Resources, agile organizations, and agility are everywhere. Agile is a mindset, a collection of behaviors and practices that are not confined to project teams. It is a way of work.


Citizen development is a new revolution to transform agile

and business processes by accelerating technology

adoption and digital transformation.


Stay tuned because next week, I will publish a new article with tips and tricks on starting your career as a citizen developer. Let me know your thoughts on the comments below.



Posted by Mario Trentim on: March 19, 2021 11:14 AM | Permalink

Comments (1)

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Luis Branco CEO| Business Insight, Consultores de Gestão, Ldª Carcavelos, Lisboa, Portugal
Dear Mario
Very interesting the theme that brought nissa reflection and debate
Thanks for sharing and your opinion
I'm already waiting for the next week's article on the topic

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