Project Management

Citizen Development Can Pave the Way For Agility in 2022. Here’s how!

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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On one hand, businesses are going full throttle on digitizing their operations, but on the other hand, IT talent shortages hamper the timely implementation of complex software. However, no-code development platforms are proving to be effective.  

No-code platforms reduce development complexity to the point where business users can create solutions without knowing programming, APIs, or how to deploy web or mobile apps. No-code solutions, which are frequently packaged as a SaaS (software as a service) or PaaS (platform as a service), simplify many complex aspects of development so that business users and IT teams can become more agile and focus on generating functionality. 

According to Gartner, the market for no-code/low-code application platforms would grow by more than 30% from 2020 levels by 2022. By embracing these no-code solutions, project managers may serve the diverse and often siloed interests of both IT and business as IT project leaders and business process stakeholders. 

But what are the advantages of no-code development, and how can you put them into practice in your project teams? 

The answer could be in citizen development — creating a group of non-technical team members to take up some of the tasks that IT teams can’t focus on due to lack of bandwidth. 

According to Gartner, citizen developers will build 80% of all technological products by 2024, up from just 25% in 2014. This rapid spread is attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic: New business models and processes arose as organizations hurried to implement cloud services and digital initiatives to deal with a distant workforce. These occurrences coincided with the rapid adoption of agile frameworks in recent years, which place a premium on speed and shorter development cycles. Along with developer scarcity, all of this has allowed citizen developers to fix various issues. 

Citizen development from an agility standpoint  

In today’s organizations, there is a lot of unmet demand that central IT solution teams can’t address. When citizen developers are given no-code tools, they can build solutions ten times faster than if they had to rely on programming alone. They tackle problems as they arise, creating applications that are unlikely to be quickly built by IT, given the number of projects they are already handling. Developers and architects may focus on more complicated solutions that offer real value to the business. It translates to higher overall productivity (98 percent less time spent producing operational dashboards, for example) and better business results. 

Embracing no-code means adopting a philosophy that prioritizes user empowerment. However, it would help if you had a new software development life cycle that is flexible and built on agile principles to empower consumers. You also require a framework to assist citizen developers in rapidly developing applications and getting real-time feedback from stakeholders.  

Enabling agility with citizen development  

Understanding citizen development is one thing, but understanding how to scale it is another. To successfully adopt and scale citizen development, your organization needs to: 

  • Establish a governance structure 
  • Reimagine rules of engagement with IT departments and business users. 
  • Reskill and upskill your workforce with agile future competencies, including digital literacy and citizen development proficiency. 
  • Equip your workforce with the required no-code tools.  

Enabling Agility

Without the aforementioned considerations, citizen development applications may cause more harm than good, causing extra work or confusion instead of solving a problem. Your citizen development practitioners need tools to design and build their applications within the context of the business and the entire organization. 

Citizen development governance structure  

Although business users can easily use no-code platforms to build custom, priority-specific applications in an agile fashion, their roles and responsibilities need to be earmarked to prevent the challenge of shadow IT. This can be achieved by establishing a well-thought-out governance structure. 

Your IT governance model can take a top-down approach, with a single authority overseeing your entire citizen development programme, including various projects and initiatives. Your CTO can lead this office, which can be placed within your IT department. There are other governance models as well, and organizations can choose based on the assessment of their maturity level.

The office can establish no-code development best practices and roll them out across the firm, ensuring that all teams (technical and non-technical) are on the same page. Other tasks may include the following: 

  • Choosing the most refined no-code platform for the entire organization 
  • Maintaining the policy and criteria for citizen development.
  • Bringing together and distributing resources. 
  • Organizing citizen developer workshops, hackathons, and community activities. 
  • Identification and prioritization of high-value no-code projects. For example, building no-code applications to automate critical workflows in a time crunch. 
  • Updating Internal and external stakeholders on the status of several no-code projects. 

Identifying the “right fit” candidate for citizen development 

Someone with hands-on experience dealing with paper-based processes and understanding the associated pain points is a great candidate for citizen development. No prior coding knowledge is required to use no-code platforms, but the desired candidate must have a solid grip on business logic.  

It’s important to note that citizen development is not a one-man show and is carried out through a governance paradigm. Therefore, an ideal candidate should also have a collaborative approach. 

Citizen developers are much more than self-sufficient contributors. They are primarily business users; therefore, no-code development is not their primary responsibility, and they must balance numerous tasks. As a result, another quality of a productive citizen developer is time management. 

Conclusion  

With the rise of citizen developers, the extent of democratization of software development is also rising, which is significantly facilitating agile application development. Although realities like shadow IT may appear frightening, having a defined set of governance principles, roles, and obligations can help make citizen development successful. As more companies adopt a hybrid workforce model, it’s critical to direct non-technical staff toward citizen development rather than burden remote-based IT personnel with day-to-day troubleshooting. No-code platforms are democratizing and speeding up innovation by allowing business analysts, product designers, and marketers to act as citizen engineers. 

Posted by Vivek Goel on: April 28, 2022 06:45 AM | Permalink

Comments (2)

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Claire Sanders
PMI Team Member
PMI United Kingdom
An insightful read - thank you for sharing your expertise, Vivek!

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Stéphane Parent Self Employed / Semi-retired| Leader Maker Prince Edward Island, Canada
Been there, done that. I remember the 1980s' promise of 4GL languages that would put application development in the hands of non-IT staff. Yet, to this day, we go back to 3GL languages like C, C , Java, JavaScript. Why, pray tell? Because you can only take those tools so far before you exhaust their capabilities.

The other problem you'll have as many UIs as you have CD projects. Remember the 1990s when the browsers ushered the era of one UI for all your apps? Well, that all fell apart when smart devices came into the picture. Now your phone as a bunch of icons for all the apps which all have their own UI! Another step back, I guess! CD will likely create a similar problem, even if you can avoid the shadow IT issue.

Don't get me wrong, I do believe CD has it's place. It should be on every professional's plate, not just a "a group of non-technical team members". We, individually, should be enabled to improve our work through straightforward tools. Some of us happen to be IT folks; don't give us dumb tools. Make sure the tools can accommodate and grow
for various levels of expertise.

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