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Organizations are increasingly training end users to build applications without the aid of professional developers as part of an effort to spur innovation, Betty Blocks CEO Chris Obdam told VentureBeat. The company was founded in 2016 and this week announced it has raised $33 million to fund the ongoing development of a low-code application development platform specifically designed for “citizen developers.”  Organizations that are training end users to build applications using Betty Blocks’ platform include The Dutch National Police, Clifford Chance, TaskUs, and Anglian Water.

Most low-code platforms employed today are used by professional developers as an alternative to procedural code to accelerate the development of applications. The next phase is to make low-code platforms accessible to end users who want to be able to build applications themselves, Obdam said.

Working smarter, not harder

The challenge is most end users have little understanding of what’s required to build a secure application that scales and that other end users will adopt. Many of the applications end users are constructing are not especially attractive because most of these individuals are not familiar with design principles. Most end users don’t have much software architecture experience either, which results in applications that don’t scale well across an enterprise.

Finally, citizen developers have even less security expertise than professional developers. Enterprise applications created by professional developers are already rife with vulnerabilities, and applications created by citizen developers will only make things worse.

Obdam said the company will use its new funding to add tools that more proactively guide citizen developers to build applications in a way that enables them to avoid these issues. For example, much of the knowledge for identifying vulnerabilities in a piece of code created by a citizen developer can be automated, he said. Specifically, Betty Block is committed to making the platform even easier to use, enhancing governance features, adding more templates, and providing more backend integrations.

Competition among providers of low-code platforms is already fierce. But the funding serves to assure customers that Betty Blocks will be around for the long haul, Obdam said. However, additional funding will most likely be required amid competition from rivals that include Salesforce, Microsoft, ServiceNow, and a host of other providers of low-code platforms hoping to increase their appeal to citizen developers, Obdam added.

Renegade tech

As younger employees join the workforce, the number of potential citizen developers should substantially increase. More digital natives have been exposed to some form of software development, and they are generally less intimated by application development. “This is still in its early stages,” Obdam said.

Applications today are typically built by professional developers with little business expertise. As a result, the development cycle can become extended as business users request changes that were not part of the original requirements document. But end users that develop applications themselves should have a better sense of those requirements as they generate code using a low-code platform.

Are organizations prepared to manage a much larger portfolio of applications once citizen-driven applications deploy? It’s unclear. But the level of innovation that could be brought to bear on digital business transformation initiatives promises to be substantial once citizen developers can build secure applications that others actually want to use at the scale an enterprise IT organization requires.

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