Project Management

Agile and Citizen Development

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Citizen Development: The Path to Success Starts Small

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


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By Mario Trentim

Agile and Citizen Development

In this article, I will guide you through a journey that combines agility and citizen development. Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity add up to the VUCA world, posing new challenges to the organizations. As globalization and transformations changed the outside world, organizations embraced agile practices to adapt.

More recently, the next generation of business evolved into Brittleness, Anxiety, Nonlinearity, and Incomprehensibility, resulting in the new BANI world.

Combining VUCA and BANI means a whole new playing field and Agile frameworks like Scrum are not enough to build agile organizations.

The Agile Revolution

In a previous article, I explained the early days of project management. At that time, most organizations operated in models from the 19th century, typically hierarchical and prescriptive. It was a time when the change was slow. Consequently, organizations had plenty of time and resources to go for waterfall approaches. For example, if you compare NASA and SpaceX, you will find two great organizations with very different methods.

I am not advocating that one is better than the other. The context is different, and we have a new project environment, innovations in technology and management, and the world changed. NASA started with traditional approaches to management and project management, and it evolved from there. SpaceX started with agile methods, flexible with scope, focusing on speed in development and lean approaches.

When I go back to the Agile Manifesto, it looks to me that agile approaches were the answer to external changes. Engaging with stakeholders and delivering working products (or software) needed a new way of work to respond to change. Without the waterfall constraints, teams and organizations were suddenly free to experiment, learn, and co-create value with stakeholders to co-create value.


The Agile Revolution emphasized

adaptive versus predictive.


A decade ago, Jurgen Appelo published the book Management 3.0, sharing insights grounded in modern complex systems theory to help in scaling and advancing agile management. In summary, management 1.0 describes scientific management approaches from the 19th century, typically hierarchical and prescriptive. As organizations evolved, management 2.0 evolved to objectives and key results, meritocracy, and organizational alignment around business models. Finally, management 3.0 advocates that autonomous teams, distributed, hybrid, and virtual, need a different environment to thrive.


Agile is not the fastest way anymore.


VUCA and BANI mentioned before are not buzzwords. These are attempts to make sense of the rapid pace of changes and the digital transformation turmoil accelerated by the 2020 pandemic. The Cynefin Framework, created by Snowden and Boone, is a sense-making framework to help us in navigating a variety of situations to make decisions.

Figure 1 – Cynefin framework (


If we were better equipped to deal with external changes because of agile approaches, Cynefin framework, and more, it all changed when internal changes surpassed external changes. 2020 will be remembered as the year of hyper-agility.


Citizen Development

Think for a moment that very few organizations were prepared for the full-time remote work. Even agile approaches had to be reinvented because you cannot use daily meetings and information radiators as you did in a physical environment.

Although there was a significant number of remote workers in the past, organizations were focused on in-person first work. That means organizational structures, organizational architecture, communications, decision-making, and more assumed that we had physical spaces, headquarters, and in-person work for the things that were “important.”

In other work, most people working from home were even part-time employees, freelancers, outsourced workers. Full-time employees were not working from home permanently. Remote work has always been peripheral to in-person work until the pandemic.

Because of the pandemic, we had no choice but to embrace remote work. A remote-first organization needs to decentralize decisions to a myriad of distributed teams.

Figure 2 – Disciplined Agile


While Disciplined Agile provides principles, guidelines, and a complete toolkit for organizations to create their Way of Work, Citizen Development enables these organizations to build applications to support their work, embedding intellectual property from flexible and adaptable processes into low-code platforms with governance and security.

Figure 3 – Citizen development and technology abstraction


Hyper-agility is the new normal as a result of the digital transformation accelerated because of the 2020 pandemic. To understand the implications of hyper-agility, think for a moment about your organization´s business model, capabilities, and systems. Imagine you work for a large manufacturer. In the past, you would need a couple of months to go through the cascade of choices (Figure 4) or any other strategic planning approach. Once you reviewed and prioritized a roadmap of initiatives, it would take even more time to build or rethink the capabilities, developing and implementing new scalable systems.

Figure 4 – Playing to Win (Lafley and Martin, 2013)


Right now, citizen development allows you to do the same job in weeks. You can check the successful case studies here, for example. Hyper-agility means that organizations have now to change from the inside. Adapting to the external context is not enough.

Citizen development allows you to learn, experiment, innovate, build, deploy, and service new applications as you discover new ways of work and value streams with the support and help of business users and stakeholders.


Let me know how your organization is embracing Citizen Development in the comments below.

Posted by Mario Trentim on: May 13, 2021 12:00 PM | Permalink

Comments (1)

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Luis Branco CEO| Business Insight, Consultores de Gestão, Ldª Carcavelos, Lisboa, Portugal
Dear Mario
Very interesting the theme that brought to our reflection and debate
Thanks for sharing and your opinion
Sincerely? I need to take a moment to reflect on the concepts you covered in this article

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