Project Management

Citizen Development Part 2: Getting Started

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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The previous article – the first in this series – covered what citizen development is and the challenges that gave rise to it. If your organization experiences these challenges and you already see the benefits of implementing citizen development, where do you start? 

It’s a good question because one thing you certainly don’t want to do is to dive into citizen development blindly, with no clear plan or strategy. Whilst citizen development is based on a simple – yet powerful – idea, executing it effectively is more complex. 

There are many parts that need to fit together in order for the whole to work effectively. Though all of these parts can’t be covered in one article, let’s look at some of the fundamental steps and considerations for organizations when starting out with citizen development. 


What does it take to be a citizen developer?

When we think about the types of people that would make for good citizen developers, we often think about people with a background in or affinity for technology. We think about people who may have dabbled in programming before starting out in their current career paths. However, whilst these attributes can bring advantages, organizations certainly shouldn’t rule out people who don’t fit this mold. 

In fact, when it comes to citizen development, you could say that attitude is more important than aptitude. Organizations should look for natural problem solvers – experts in their fields who have the ability and the passion to lead change. They should be able to navigate organizational politics and manage projects and stakeholders effectively. 

People with the right attitude will be seated throughout the organization and, more often than not, they will make themselves known through their drive to solve problems. The technology aspect – no-code and low-code platforms – can be learned. The right attitude, however, is more difficult to learn – and to teach. 

Finding your citizen developers 

2. Hackathon 

One way to bring potential citizen developers together is to hold a hackathon and invite people from various departments within the organization to bring along a specific problem. The goal should be to enable business-side employees to work together with experienced developers to create a solution within the low- or no-code platform. This way, you find those people who are enthusiastic about citizen development and you present the wider organization with a way to solve their problems going forward. 

3. Target problem-solving roles 

There are certain roles that involve finding creative ways to solve problems on a daily basis. Think analysts, project managers, and roles that include a focus on continuous improvement. These people likely already have pressing problems for which they’re actively seeking a solution. If you approach them with a new way of solving their problem, you will usually find they’re more than happy to give it a try. 

Fostering a culture of problem solving and collaboration 

An effective citizen development strategy encompasses more than the technical implementation of a no- or low-code alone. It requires a paradigm shift – a change in the organization’s culture

Consider the following scenarios that are commonplace in organizations today: 

  1. Lengthy software development lifecycles from which the business side is largely shut out; 

  2. Unclear and ineffective communication between the business side and IT;

  3. Unforeseen challenges that are addressed too late for solutions to be effective;

  4. Products that no longer meet requirements.

Conversely, citizen development works because you foster a culture of continuous improvement, of close collaboration between business-side employees and IT professionals. Both the business side and IT must be encouraged to start small and must know that failing fast is okay – that it’s what will lead to successful initial use cases and will set the foundation for scaling. 

Whilst low- and no-code platforms are the medium with which organizations can solve problems, enterprises that have successfully implemented citizen development have placed an equal focus on creating the right culture. 


Following on from culture is the idea of mentoring. Whilst it can sound a little vague on the surface – it’s not necessarily something you can easily document or set up a process for – it’s a crucial part of a successful citizen development strategy. 

By mentoring, we don’t mean simply providing training or a helpline, we mean encouraging real, human relationships between the different types of developers. For organizations in which mentoring is present, the business side and IT have a shared language, making for more effective communication regarding the problem, the solution, and the technology. 

Whenever a new technology is introduced, there will inevitably be unforeseen problems. Having strong relationships and a shared language will enable the different types of developers to get the project back on track when challenges arise. 

Identifying suitable use cases (starting small) 

The key to implementing citizen development effectively is to start small. Organizations should define the value they wish to see and then prove that value through manageable use cases. Think about digitizing and automating all of the paper-based and spreadsheet-based processes, the unstructured data, the invisible mechanics of the organization. Examples might include:

  • Document generation

  • Workload management 

  • Decision trees 

  • Order management 

  • Onboarding 

These processes might not be the most exciting place to start with your new technology and strategy, but they will enable you to demonstrate value. They will help you get buy-in from stakeholders and the wider organization, and will provide a foundation from which to scale.  

Next time: Governance 

In the next article in this series, I’ll be diving into how organizations ensure citizen development is properly governed, and what governance means for both the business side and IT. 

Until next time! 

Posted by Ryan Whitmore on: June 15, 2021 10:39 AM | Permalink

Comments (6)

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Kwiyuh Michael Wepngong Financial Management Specialist | US Peace Corps / Cameroon Yaounde, Centre, Cameroon
Thanks Ryan
Quite useful

Rami Kaibni
Community Champion
Senior Projects Manager | Field & Marten Associates New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada
Good piece Ryan, thanks for sharing.

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

ABDELFATTAH SAMIR BASYOUNI Senior Electrical Engineer| AAW Consulting Engineers Shr, Egypt

Gustavo Leon Delgado San Jose, Costa Rica
Great blog Ryan! Thank you for sharing it with us. Very helpful!

Diego Enrique Muñoz Romero Prof.| CONSULTORIA TECNICA Y FORMACION PROFESIONAL Machala, El Oro, Ecuador
Gracias por compartir con nosotros...

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