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  • Davie Lau

Are Citizen Developers The Future of Enterprise Software Development?

If you have recently attended a Microsoft conference, you probably can't help but notice how much Microsoft is pushing Power Apps as a solution to IT department resource constraints. In case you don't know, Power Apps is Microsoft's low code platform that enables citizen developers (a.k.a. non-programmers), to build their own applications. Microsoft promotes Power Apps as a way to reduce development time and cost by not having to rely on expensive professional programmers who are often in short supply.

I do believe that Power Apps has a place in some organizations. If an application is simple and has a few users, then I believe it might be a good candidate for Power Apps. The problem is that small applications will often grow over time. What was once a single user application for a warehouse manager can grow to be a business critical application being used by a hundred staff in the entire warehouse. At the current pricing of $10 US per user per app, that works out to $1000 per month for a single app! That might be a rounding error for Fortune 500 companies, but not for many small to medium sized businesses. If you do build a Power App, I recommend keeping it simple to avoid problems with vendor lock in. A simple application can easily be ported to a different platform or code base later if needed.

I'm afraid many companies will go down the Power Apps path, and years later find themselves stuck with dozens of rogue applications that are expensive to operate, and not scalable, maintainable, or portable. This underlines the importance of coming up with a digital strategy that plans for future growth of the business. As the saying goes, you can build something faster, cheaper, or better - you can have two but never all three. With Power Apps, Microsoft has chosen faster and arguably cheaper, but probably not better. I'm curious to know what everyone thinks. Please let me know if you agree with me in the comments.

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