Leaders across the globe have faced tough challenges in the first half of the year, from budget scrutiny amidst the recession to the rapidly changing artificial intelligence (AI) and technology landscape, all while trying to do the best for their employees as the Great Resignation becomes the Great Stay. Even the most traditional executives have realized that to thrive in the current business environment, departments must be examined and strategic changes must be implemented to strengthen the future of the company and, more importantly, support the workforce that fuels it through innovation at all levels of the organization.

However, this is much easier said than done. As leaders look to new initiatives to adapt, low-code/no-code stands out as a holy grail solution. Address the pervasive tech skills gap by bringing non-technical employees into the development and deployment process? Check. Identify an affordable way to leverage unique employee skill sets and integrate members from cross-team functions? Check. A new way to think about technical skills, freeing those in traditional developer roles to focus on creativity and innovation rather than execution? Check.

If you’re considering what low-code/no-code could look like in the workplace, here are some central considerations to keep in mind and mistakes to avoid when integrating citizen developers into your workforce in effort to create a more innovative IT department.

Citizen Developers Are Not “Junior” Developers, They Have Their Own Unique Skill Set

Citizen developers, employees that utilize strategies to create new or change existing business applications without involving IT departments, often have nontraditional backgrounds, serving in roles like customer service, human resources, and project management, bringing a new wave of perspectives and ideas to the tech and service industry. While many may be inclined to view citizen developers as “junior” developers, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Since citizen developers are connected to other parts of the business, they can provide insight and streamline processes that developers alone are not involved in. Additionally, citizen developers shouldn’t be considered a one-to-one replacement of developers. Though they can optimize specific business functions, they do not fix technical holes in the workforce.

Leveraging these unique talents has huge benefits for the entire team: reducing the heavy lift on developers by easing the skills gap, opening the path to new ideas and innovative strategies, and bringing diverse and new perspectives to an IT industry that typically lacks diversity. Acknowledging the benefits of their nontraditional skill set is key to reap the benefits of implementing low-code/no-code in the workforce, as it meshes a unique view on the needs of the business, creativity, and coding skills to drive innovation.

Generative AI Will Fuel Citizen and Professional Developer Roles, Leading to Increased Innovation

Gartner research shows that 61% of corporations have already implemented citizen development projects or plan to do so. This is great news, because as the skills gap continues to widen without an equivalent number of new graduates to fill the holes, citizen developers are the natural solution for any department. However, as more organizations get comfortable with these shifts, they will also need to navigate the rapid evolution of generative AI, which will take things one step further for both citizen and professional developers.

Generative AI is continuing to evolve – and it makes the complexity of coding more accessible. In this sense, it is a low-code tool. Citizen developers will be able to leverage generative AI platforms to complete even more complex initiatives, which will free up the deeply technical computer and data scientists to focus on issues that require an in-depth understanding of how the systems work. With citizen developers able to flex their skills by assisting IT teams and traditional developers focused on strategic advancements, organizations are sure to see an improvement in productivity and employee satisfaction. One thing is certain: low-code/no-code tools, like platforms based on the principles of model-driven design, automatic code generation, and visual programming, are unleashing increased innovation, empowering the workforce, and helping to address skill shortages.

The Best Part about Low-Code/No-Code? The Opportunities Are Endless

The barriers to teaching and integrating low-code/no-code are relatively low, and any employee from any background – formally educated or not – can begin their coding journey with ease. Providing access to learning and development opportunities like low-code/no-code trainings opens new career opportunities for the existing workforce, encouraging workers to tap into their personal interest in learning developer skills while taking on a more expansive role in the organization. When employees feel that their interest in expanding their role and learning new parts of the business is being listened to, they also take on an increased sense of fulfillment and interest in the job, leading to heightened employee retention.

It may seem intimidating to start the journey of prioritizing new learning and training opportunities, but the benefits are endless. At our recently held SAP Builder Day, interested participants from across industries were able to learn the concept of low-code software development through hands-on experience. Learners created full end-to-end processes that integrated with SAP S/4HANA, using SAP Build Apps, SAP Build Process Automation, and SAP Build Work Zone. Through this program, dozens of workers were able to expand their technical knowledge and dive deeper into the world of low-code/no-code.

To begin implementing low-code/no-code strategies in your department, consider leveraging training for all levels – from beginner to advanced – and build time into the workday for those who are interested in learning. Putting an emphasis on this opportunity, and on the learning and development of your employees, is sure to make an impact on your teams.

The Future of IT Is Rapidly Changing, But Shining Bright

As technology continues to rapidly evolve, it’s essential that IT teams are properly equipped to grow alongside it. With low-code/no-code and the rise of the citizen developer, the opportunities are limitless to what the technical workforce can accomplish, with employees of every background poised to get involved in the digital transformation across the industry. Not only will integrating citizen developers into your teams allow your organization to diversify its workforce, but it can also create new innovations in your strategy and address the employee burnout and stress on developers who cannot keep up with the growing skills gap.

Timo Schuette is global vice president of SAP Product Learning CoE at SAP.