Skip to main content

An Introduction to App Studio for Citizen Developers

Eddie Navarro, 7 minute read

On April 19, 2023 we officially kicked off our Citizen Development Community of Practice webinar series. Joined by special guests Timothy Harfield and Pawel Suflida, the purpose of this inaugural session was to explore what it means to be a Pega citizen developer, understand why it matters, and discuss how App Studio is uniquely designed to support citizen development in the enterprise.


App Studio for Citizen Developer: An Introduction (Webinar recorded April 19, 2023)


What is a Pega Citizen Developer?

Timothy Harfied argues that it’s important to adopt a definition that is broad enough to embrace a variety of different styles of citizen development, while also ensuring active collaboration between business and IT. He recommends that we think about citizen development in terms of the definition provide by the Project Management Institute, as “someone who can build applications without coding knowledge, but usually with the support of IT” and usually as a member of a squad.

With this definition in mind, citizen developers have an important role to play in many kinds of low-code project:

  1. As an individual – building simple departmental applications from beginning to end in App Studio
  2. As a member of a squad – building more sophisticated departmental applications, leveraging reusable components provided by the Center of Excellence where advanced and organization-specific functionality is required.
  3. In a fusion team – building moderate-high criticality applications that have the potential to introduce risk that can be successfully mitigated by IT involvement.

Why does citizen development matter?

Today’s enterprise needs to automate everywhere, all the time in order to meet the expectations of both customers and employees.  But IT departments are resource-constrained, which means that they are unable to address many application requests from the business. By enabling citizen developers and citizen development squads, organizations can address many simple automation requests in ways that also mitigate risks associated with ‘Shadow IT.’ Furthermore, by empowering citizen developers to work in the same platform as professional developers, organizations can address the automation ‘murky middle,’ addressing opportunities that are both too complex and critical for citizen developers alone, and not complex and critical enough to be prioritized by traditional enterprise software delivery. 

What is the App Studio vision for citizen development?

According to Pawel Suflida, Pega’s vision for App Studio in support of citizen development is rooted in some important philosophical positions:

  1. Citizen developers should focus on business outcomes – Citizen development is most commonly associated with ‘drag and drop’ or canvas-style development. But this UI-first perspective is both inefficient and risky.  It’s inefficient because citizen developers are experts in business process, and not in UI. Canvas-style approaches distract citizen developers by focusing them on visual aspects in which they are not expert, which slows development velocity. And it’s risky because it encourages citizen developers to build their business logic into the UI layer, which creates challenges for upgrades, especially when multiple channels are involved. It’s also risky, because citizen developers are not always aware of enterprise brand standards and accessibility concerns, which means that user experiences are uneven and inaccessible in ways that introduce compliance risk. The Constellation authoring experience directs citizen developers to focus on business logic, with UI generated in the Constellation Design System, which ensures consistent, efficient, and accessible user experiences.
  2. Enterprise reuse – App Studio is designed to give citizen developers the tools that they need, without introducing additional risk that may come from more advanced development in Dev Studio. By providing citizen developers with a library of reusable components, they can ‘assemble the blocks’ and configure their behaviors in App Studio. A robust reuse strategy empowers citizen developers to do more with ease and mitigates risk. Reusable components that are built for citizen developers have the added advantage of being available to professional developers as well, which increases application velocity for every low code project, including the most complex, critical, and customer-facing applications.
  3. Business-IT collaboration is essential – In the absence of collaboration on a platform that is sanctioned and supported by IT, you don’t have citizen development.  You have ‘shadow IT.’ Using App Studio, citizen developers can trust that they have a safe and secure environment. Coaching by IT is incredible valuable, especially as new citizen developers are gaining experience early on.  Using a single platform used by citizen and professional developers alike means that citizen developers can rapidly prototype applications to be finished by IT, which ensures that applications requirements are clearly communicated.  And because citizen and professional developers are all building on a common platform, citizen developed applications have a path to ‘graduate’ to IT ownership as they grow in complexity and criticality over time without the need for redevelopment or significant refactoring

 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


If the citizen developer application is landing in the same unified platform as a high criticality app, how does Pega recommend that we manage risk?

Application security for citizen developers is ensured through the use of application templates. When a citizen developer requests an application in Pega App Factory, practice managers will deploy templates to accelerate build velocity. These same templates can also be used to restrict access to platform features that could potentially introduce risk. As a best practice, templates should restrict access to App Studio only unless there is a clear need for advanced features and citizen developers have the necessary training and skill to safely make use of Dev Studio. In these latter cases, Dev Studio access should typically be granted only when citizen developers are collaborating with an IT professional in a fusion team.  In the vast majority of cases, however, citizen developers requiring advanced features should request these as reusable components that can be assembled and configured in App Studio.  Templates are also used to enforce appropriate SDLC pipeline requirements, with checkpoints for risk assessment and testing.

Although Pega is a unified platform, and although citizen developed apps can share an environment with higher criticality applications, best practice is to have a dedicated Pega Cloud environment for citizen developed apps (i.e. a low-code factory) that can then be moved to another (and potentially dedicated) environment as the application grows in complexity and criticality and  is ‘graduated’ to higher levels of IT ownership.

Is there detailed guidance for how to create a smart shape that can be made available in app studio?

Detailed instructions for how to create a custom smart shape is available HERE.


Recommended resources:


About the Author

Eddie Navarro is a Principal Solutions Consultant for Intelligent Automation at Pega, and leader for the Pega Citizen Development Community of Practice.

Share this page Share via x Share via LinkedIn Copying...

Did you find this content helpful?

Want to help us improve this content?

We'd prefer it if you saw us at our best.

Pega Community has detected you are using a browser which may prevent you from experiencing the site as intended. To improve your experience, please update your browser.

Close Deprecation Notice
Contact us