Project Management

Five Tips to Quickstart your Citizen Developer Career

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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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By Mario Trentim

 

In my previous article, I described the difference between "doing" and "the management of doing." In a way, citizen development is a broad discipline utilizing business analysis concepts, agile project management, software development, innovation, lean startup, and technology to create the future of work by leveraging digital transformation in all life and business areas.

Too much for your brain? Don't panic. This article will lay out a simple plan based on five tips to quickstart your citizen developer career.

 

Understanding the "Big Picture"

Citizen development is here to stay. And the PMI Community plays an essential role in shaping what comes next since we are a community of change-makers (project managers, business analysts, agilists, and more).

Citizen development is more than a framework and is more than a toolkit. We may understand citizen development as a life skill since every person engages with different technologies daily. Digital literacy is required if you are a student trying to attend online classes and deliver homework. Digital skills are even more critical to your job, considering you have to collaborate and work productively in an entirely new way with virtual and hybrid teams. And digital maturity is foundational to business models and organizational strategy because stakeholders' experience and behavior changed completely (digital employee experience, digital customer experience, and more).

 

So, before your profession and career are disrupted,

what should you do to become a citizen developer?

 

Five Tips to Help you Become a Citizen Developer

 

  1. Join Citizen Development training

Every time I find a new topic of interest that might impact my work or my organization, I look for a foundational course from an accredited source. Information is so abundant nowadays that you become quickly overwhelmed by Blog posts and Youtube videos on a particular topic.

If you don't have any background, you will waste a lot of time figuring out what citizen development is from sparse materials. Unless you have a technology background or some familiarity with software development, I don't recommend unsupervised learning by yourself.

Figure 1 – Citizen Developer Foundation Course

 

Figure 2 – Citizen Development Handbook

 

So, tip #1 is to look for a book and training. What will you learn from the references above? You will learn the Citizen Development Framework, equipping you with tools and techniques, processes, and steps to define, plan, organize, and manage citizen development projects.

What's next?

You will need a low-code / no-code platform to experiment, prototype and build your applications.

 

  1. Experiment with the no-code platform

As I explained in my previous article, a no-code / low-code platform allows you to develop applications without being proficient in a programming language (Low-Code vs. Citizen Development).

Instead of writing code (Figure 3), a low-code platform allows you to choose and configure components by simply dragging and dropping what you need.

Figure 3 – Programming Language (Wikipedia.org)

 

Figure 4 – Low-Code Platform, Microsoft Power Platform example.

 

To experiment with a low-code platform, you have to pick one of your choices. That's the reason why the first step is to get a foundation course. You will learn what citizen development is, why it is essential, and what platforms you can choose. Below there is a list of low-code platforms for you to start exploring.

  • Appian
  • Boomi
  • Creatio
  • Mendix
  • OutSystems
  • Quickbase
  • WaveMaker
  • Microsoft
  • Oracle
  • SalesForce

 

Although I will provide you more examples and guidance on my future blog posts, it is time to join a community of practice and get to know your IT team.

 

  1. Get to know your IT team

 

One of the primary reasons behind the citizen development revolution is the shortage of professional developers. As technology moves to the center of business models and the world run on software, more and more products and services need technology.

End-users need help from IT to develop applications for a variety of reasons. In the past, the so-called power-users were people from the business with some IT experience, developing solutions to solve their departments' needs. These solutions could be those monstrous spreadsheets or other applications, sometimes causing more harm than good because shadow-IT might be very dangerous.

It would be best if you got to know your IT team as soon as possible. They are probably already experimenting with citizen development and using low-code platforms for software development. They will be capable of helping you understand when and how to use citizen development to your needs.

Also, bear in mind that some low-code applications might be so complex and large that you would need to go for the Assisted path or IT Delivery path, both described at the PMI Citizen Development framework (Figure 5).

 

Figure 5 – Hyper-Agile SDLC Paths (PMI.org)

 

I will describe the Hyper-Agile SDLC in detail and provide examples in future blog posts. For now, you have to understand that the Fast Track path is adequate for medium/low complexity applications that you can build on your own without help from an IT department.

My next tip is to focus on problems and opportunities at hand in your business unit to acquire citizen development skills. Keep in touch with your IT team for guidance.

 

  1. Plan solutions to achieve business objectives

When I mention "citizen development," many people get confused and do not know where to start. The best way to learn citizen development is to focus on specific problems you want to solve related to your organization.

Take employee experience, for example. Because of the pandemic, most of the organizations adopted remote work. Not all organizations had the time or competencies to plan appropriately. The final result is less than satisfactory.

Imagine you worked at a small office with 50 people. You probably didn't need a specific application for the employees to select a health plan. They could stand up and walk to the Human Resources person (or team) and pick a health plan from a spreadsheet. Now that your company grew to 100 employees, all of them working from home, it is time-consuming and frustrating trying to make a video call or sending an email to the Human Resources team to select your health plan. There you have an excellent idea for a citizen development project!

Figure 6 – Health Plan Selector, Microsoft Power Apps

 

There are many low-code sample applications focused on human resources, onboarding and hiring processes, reimbursement. Or you can build your app from scratch.

You will also find more examples for operations, sales, and any other area or processes in your organization. Don't forget to work closely with your IT team and to continue sharpening your skills.

 

  1. Continuously improve your development skills

 

Last tip: citizen development is a lifelong learning journey. As you get more experienced with the PMI Citizen Development Framework and proficient in using specific low-code platforms from different vendors, you may choose different paths.

One career path might be to become a citizen development architect, responsible for large citizen development initiatives, with broad knowledge and experience to architect complex solutions. Another career path might be to become a citizen development strategist, someone who is thinking of digital strategies and digital transformation to your business and your organization as a whole.

You may provide guidance and coaching to other citizen developers in your company since some organizations establish Citizen Development Centers of Excellence and Digital Transformation Offices, a topic I will discuss next week in my article. Stay tuned.

 

Join the conversation below in the comments and let me know your thoughts. Also, feel free to reach out to me at Linkedin.com/in/trentim.

 

 

Posted by Mario Trentim on: March 25, 2021 12:00 PM | Permalink

Comments (3)

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Luis Branco CEO| Business Insight, Consultores de Gestão, Ldª Carcavelos, Lisboa, Portugal
Dear Mario
Very interesting the theme you brought today for our reflection and debate (theme started last week)
Thanks for sharing and explanations
I will be attentive to the next article that you publish

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Manikandan Vaithiyanathan PMP, PMI-ACP, CSM, CSPO, PRINCE2 Managing Director - ERP & Digital Transformation| IT Software Services Industry Frisco, Tx, USA
Very informative Post ! Thank you.

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Tamara Alokhina Dubai, Du, United Arab Emirates
This is so interesting! Saying more - I will follow your advice No1 straight away.

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