Project Management

Citizen Development Part 1: What Is It and Why Do We Need It?

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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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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In this series of five articles, I'll be taking a comprehensive look at citizen development, from getting started to governance to scaling. Of course, there are certain principles to citizen development upon most of us will agree, but at the same time, different types of organizations will naturally have different experiences to draw on. 

For that reason, I'm going to start with a basic overview of the key elements that make up citizen development – how we at Betty Blocks define it and why we're so passionate about supporting its adoption throughout enterprise organizations. 


What is citizen development? 

For the sake of clarity, this is how we define citizen development at Betty Blocks:  

"A strategic program in which a new breed of developer builds applications on a platform that is governed by IT." 

Note the governance part. It's something that we see lacking in citizen development definitions from time to time, but citizen development without governance is simply 'shadow IT'. 


How did we get to citizen development? 

The experienced developer shortage 

By now, we've all heard about the increasing experienced developer shortage. But what are we talking about in terms of actual numbers? Statistics on the number of people in the world who can code range from 0.3% to 0.5%. That means that at least 99.5% of us can't write code. 

Isn't that crazy? 

With how much we rely on software in our everyday lives, for work as well as for pleasure, you'd be forgiven for thinking that these numbers have to be wrong. Enterprise organizations, however, see the full picture all too clearly. 

Enterprise leaders understand these numbers because they see them directly reflected in the infamous and titanic backlogs – and titanic isn't a bad metaphor, considering the many tasks that spend so long on these backlogs they eventually sink into oblivion, as markets move on and render yesterday's ideas obsolete.

In fact, according to research by PMI, 86% of IT decision-makers site the greatest threat to digitally transforming their business as a shortage of developers. In other words, the demand for software is skyrocketing and there simply aren't – and won't be – enough experienced developers to fulfill this demand. 

The knock-on effect of this is that application delivery is too slow – far from ideal during the current pandemic, in which organizations need to speed up delivery to meet the rising demand for digital products and services. 

This leaves IT departments with their hands full just trying to keep daily operations running smoothly. And it leaves the business-side departments – customer services, sales, marketing, product, etc. – facing a roadblock in their need to modernize, adapt, and innovate. 

Shadow IT

Another reason we find ourselves in this brave new world of citizen development is shadow IT. I mentioned that many business-side employees, though dying to solve problems and innovate, are stuck, with no safe and effective way to realize their brilliant ideas. 

But that doesn't mean they won't try. 

Shadow IT is rife throughout enterprise organizations because when IT doesn't have the time to get the job done, the business side inevitably takes matters into its own hands. Although well-intentioned, this type of unsanctioned development leads to all sorts of problems, particularly in the areas of security, scalability, and maintenance. 


Working smarter 

There's more to citizen development than tackling the experienced developer shortage, the slow delivery time for applications, and the rising demand for software. 

As customers are able to shop around more easily and access a greater array of options – products, services, vendors – than ever before, organizations need to work smarter to stand out. What does working smarter mean? In this case, it means having the people that are closest to the problem play an active role in building the solution. 

If a customer service employee has a great idea for improving a customer-centered process, it makes sense to have them build the solution in an environment set up for citizen development success, under the governance of IT. Injecting that expert knowledge into the development process has, for many organizations, proven invaluable. 


The tech that makes it possible 

An effective citizen development platform should make development accessible to non-experienced developers whilst facilitating governance for central IT. This is the reason why no- and low-code platforms are the go-to tools for citizen development. 

Both platforms generally utilize visual, drag-and-drop interfaces, which lower the technical barrier to entry whilst making it easy for IT to set permissions and roles, ensuring everything is done safely. We'll take a closer look at no- and low-code platforms later in this series. 


Next time: Getting started with citizen development 

I've covered the main challenges that led to the birth of citizen development. I've covered how citizen development expands the developer pool, providing organizations with additional resources. I've touched on how citizen development invites business-side insight into the development process, making for better products and services. 

In the next article, I'll be taking a look at where organizations actually start with citizen development: The discovery phase. 

See you next time!  

Posted by Ryan Whitmore on: May 26, 2021 11:17 AM | Permalink

Comments (3)

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Kwiyuh Michael Wepngong Financial Management Specialist | US Peace Corps / Cameroon Yaounde, Centre, Cameroon
Thanks for sharing with us these useful insights into CD

Ryan Whitmore Content Marketer| Betty Blocks Netherlands
Thanks, Kwiyuh – glad you found it useful!

Matthew Hubbard Head of Operational Excellence| TrackVia Sugar Grove, Il, USA
You write with clarity, Ryan. Well done, and thank you! I look forward to your next article.

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