Project Management

Citizen Development is a Game-Changer. But it’s Not Always the Right Option.

From the Citizen Development Insights Blog
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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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Recent Posts

5 Top Citizen Development Myths Busted

Empowering Citizen Developers: Overcoming 5 Common Challenges Together

Citizen Development: The Path to Success Starts Small

Can No-Code/Low-Code ERP Replace Traditional ERP Platforms?

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


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Many of us, whether in work or otherwise, have at some point had the thought, “it would be handy if there was an app for this.”  We may even have fantasized about how this hypothetical app would work. It would be tailored to our exact requirements and have no extraneous nonsense we didn’t want or need. If only we knew how to code.

I don’t know how to code. And I will never know how to code. Don’t get me wrong, coding is a wonderful skill to obtain and I’d happily have Tank upload the relevant programs to my brain if I lived in the Matrix. But I don’t (I think…), so building applications is something outside the realms of possibility for someone like me. Or at least it was.

The Citizen Development Revolution

Citizen development is snatching power from the coding elite and placing it in the hands of creative problem solvers. No more claiming that your magnificent idea got lost in translation and the developer botched it. You’re the developer.

That painfully convoluted, multi-system reporting process in your department? Build a quick web app to streamline it.

Those paper-based onsite inspection forms that require manual, error-prone data entry? Build yourself a purpose-built inspection app and finally make use of the tablet your mum got you for Christmas.

That time you worked in a Dutch timber company and needed to optimize your business processes by developing stock and order management software? (We’ve all been there)

In short, citizen development is a game-changer, but… It’s not always the right option.

The Brown Sauce Conundrum

In our excitement at the endless possibilities engendered by the citizen development revolution, my team and I wanted to use it for everything. But just because brown sauce tastes great, doesn’t mean you should put it in your tea.

Our first target was to create a customized learning management system (LMS) to host eLearning content that we were creating. We were all excited by the challenge of creating a bespoke LMS. However, it turned out that so were a lot of others, and they had created excellent, reasonably priced LMS platforms that met all our needs.

Anyone who has read PMI’s Citizen Development book may recall the first question in the Environment Check section of the Suitability Assessment: Is there an app on the market that satisfies your requirements for this solution?

If the answer is yes, the book poses further questions regarding whether you require the flexibility to make changes to this app in the future, and whether purchasing a market app would be cheaper than building your own. After asking ourselves these questions, it was clear that in this instance we were better served by using what was already on the market.

But We Already Have One

Sometime later, we were building an online community for a client, and needed a platform on which to host it. We knew exactly how we wanted it to function and were sure that with the aid of citizen development we could quickly make it a reality. And we nearly did.

But it soon came to our attention that there was already a community platform in use in another area of the organization. Was it exactly what we had envisaged? No, it wasn’t. But it was close enough, it was paid for, and we could leverage it for little extra cost.

The second question in the Environment Check asks: Is there a tool within your organization that satisfies your requirements for this solution? There was. So we used it.

The Future of App Development

Since then we have built numerous apps using citizen development (a sales tracker, an events management app, a customer portal, a reporting tool), and we’re continuously seeing more ways in which the technology can be applied.

There are of course those that still feel citizen development is all hype and no substance: I recently received feedback from a software developer who told me that citizen development was nothing but a “buzzword” that he’d never heard before and was sure he’d never hear again (we might need to add an eighth entry to this list: For my money, however,  if Amazon (Honeycode), Google (AppSheet) and Microsoft (PowerApps) are pouring mega-millions in to it, and Forbes and Gartner are backing it, it’s safe to say that it’s more than just a fad. It’s the future of app development.

And while it may not always be the right option, when it is, get ready to save a lot of money and a lot of time.

Posted by Richard Earley on: March 11, 2021 12:16 PM | Permalink

Comments (4)

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Maelisa Woulfe Consultant| FTI Consulting Ireland
Very interesting blog Richard. Thank you for sharing your experience & insights

Richard Earley Senior Consultant| FTI Consulting Ireland
Cheers, Maelisa!

Luis Branco CEO| Business Insight, Consultores de Gestão, Ldª Carcavelos, Lisboa, Portugal
Dear Richard
Very interesting this theme that brought to our reflection and debate
Thanks for sharing and for your contribution

Richard Earley Senior Consultant| FTI Consulting Ireland
Thanks, Luis!

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