The technology world advances every second, which is fantastic if you, like me, love technology. However, at the same time, in such a vast world of tech solutions, you can easily feel overwhelmed and lost.
Regarding Citizen Development, it’s no different. The movement has grown so much in the past few years and we have so many low-code and no-code players in the game now that deciding who is the winner has become a hard task, but when it comes to choosing a winner, are they all really playing the same game? And apologies for the spoiler here, they are not.
Your Needs Come First
When it comes to choosing a low-code/no-code tool, you need to have an overview of what you want. Don’t worry, you will probably not get it all in the first go, no one does and that is all right, but it is crucial to describe and decide on some features or requirements that are a “must have” for your citizen development project. For example, “I want to use charts in my solution” or “I want it to be mobile native”.
If you don’t have a few requirements in detail to start filtering down the software platform to use, you will be stuck. In the last project I worked on, one requirement was as simple as “we need a radar chart”. With that we were able to discard about 85% of platforms.
You only need a few points on what you want and need, and this will make the process a lot easier.
It is like deciding where to go on your summer holidays, if you are looking for a warm and hot place going to Scandinavia is probably on the bottom of your list. Alternatively, Scandinavia could be on the top of your list if your goal is to see the Aurora Borealis!
Do Not Reinvent the Wheel
Another important piece to consider is an Environment Check. If you have read PMI’s Citizen Development Handbook, you will know what I’m talking about. The Environment Check section asks questions around if there is already a solution in the market or if there is a similar tool in your organisation, etc. I strongly recommend the book as a guide for this process.
This might surprise you but many platforms offer plenty of templates where you can simply input or plug your data into it and are ready to go. How amazing is that? If you have a ready-to-go solution why would you try to create something from scratch? Don’t get me wrong, I do love to create apps to solve problems but I love to solve problems more.
More important than just figuring out if there is already a solution for your problem is figuring out if you or your organisation have the skills, capacity and capability to build this app using a Citizen Development approach.
Although it doesn’t look like it, creating might not be the hardest part of the process but maintaining and administering it needs consideration. Always have that clear in your mind whenever you start a citizen development project.
It is A Game. Play Around.
Your particular project idea might not be already done on an existing template but I’m sure the right platform for you to go and develop it is there. The best way to get to know a platform and what it is capable of, its strengths and weaknesses, is playing with it.
The majority of the vendors offer a demo or have a tutorial where by the end of using it you will have an application, but that is not the key goal here. Although, having an application after a tutorial is great, better than that is having a really good understanding of how the platform works.
In the first 3 minutes of using it, you will already have an opinion about the platform, such as “it is not user friendly”, “I couldn’t understand what is going on”, “this is amazing”, “where is the radar chart?”.
I am a very visual person, so I think it is crucial that the platform offers a nice and smooth design and has an easy-to-navigate around it approach, but at the same time, spending extra time playing with the tool makes you feel more comfortable with it. It might not check all the boxes for you, the user, but it could check all the boxes for your solution, and that is what you should be aiming for.
It is all about getting familiar with the tool and understanding what it is good at and where it is not so good.
Answering a Million-Dollar Question
If you have managed to create a list of requirements, and have spent some time identifying strengths and weaknesses on the platforms you should be able to answer the million-dollar question “What is the best tool to use for my project?”
This process can be stressful as the number of LCNC platforms out there keep growing and are every single day, but you need to make sure that they provide a solution for the area you are looking for, by that I mean automation, working with data on spreadsheets, or design and creating content, etc.
For example, the tool that provides a LCNC approach for automation won’t be the right tool if you want to create a responsive website.
Having clarity around what your problem is and how you want to solve it, will save you time on your search for the perfect tool. Believe me, the perfect tool is there, waiting for you to find it.
If you have registered for my upcoming webinar on 16th of June then I look forward to sharing my experience with you, it will be available on demand afterwards if you haven't managed to grab a place.
My Experience of the Citizen Developer Practitioner Course (2 of 2)
The course contains 8 modules:
As the Practitioner course is quite extensive, I decided to split my critique into 2 separate blogs (this is the second, click here to read my critique of the introduction and Project Delivery modules). In this blog, I will outline my experience of the Capability Development and conclusion modules of the course. Let’s get started! :)
Module 5 – Business Analysis and Design
The learning objectives of this module were outlined at the outset, you will have learned:
The learning objectives of this modules were easily achieved. During the lesson I was introduced to tools that are not only useful for a Citizen Developer but also a consultant and business analyst (e.g. Process Architecture Model). The tools and templates were very useful and valuable. The table below summarizes my favourite aspects of the module and one way in which I think the lesson could be improved.
Module 6 – Project Risks & Enterprise Risk Requirements
By the end of this module, you will have learned:
This lesson was excellent – I feel I achieved the learning objectives. The information was concise yet thorough. I have experience working with enterprise risks, however, until now, I did not have context on enterprise risk requirements. This module taught me all about them. The examples that were included and the sample projects further developed my understanding. Some of my favourite aspects and an item I personally think could be improved in future iterations are outlined below.
Module 7 – Application Design, Development & Deployment
By the end of this module, you will have learned:
This lesson was full of valuable information. In essence, it covered the critical aspects of application design, development and deployment. My advice to learners when they take this module is to do further research into each stage if they are eager to learn more. The table below summarizes my favourite aspects of the module and an item I personally think could be improved in the future.
Module 8 – Conclusion
I found the modular recaps very useful. The overarching premise of each lesson was reiterated which enforced the learning for me. Some of my favourite aspects and items I personally think could be improved are outlined below.
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.
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.
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!
My Experience of the Citizen Developer Practitioner Course (1 of 2)
My Citizen Development Experience so Far
I gained adequate knowledge to progress to the Practitioner Course once I completed the Foundation. Although Foundation is not a mandatory pre-requisite, I recommend taking Foundation first if you would like to enhance your understanding of citizen development as a whole.
Similar to what I did for the Foundation Course, I’m now going to document my experience of the Citizen Developer Practitioner Course… here it goes!
The course contains 8 modules:
As the Practitioner course is quite extensive, I am going to split my critique into 2 separate blogs (this is the first). In this blog, I will outline my experience of the introduction and Project Delivery modules of the course. Let’s dig in!
Module 1 - Introduction to Citizen Development
1. Course Basics
2. Course Outcomes
By completing the introductory module, I was content that I knew what to expect throughout the course. I have created a table that summarizes my favourite aspects of the module and a way in which I think the lesson could be improved in the future.
Module 2 - Hyper-Agile SDLC
The learning objectives that were set out for this module were clear and to the point, by the end of this module, you will have learned:
At the end of this lesson, I feel I met the learning objectives. The Spot Assessment was the most intriguing tool in this module. The primary objective of this tool is to assess whether citizen development is a good fit for your project or not. The tools that are used to evaluate the Spot Assessment are the Scorecard and the Risk/Technical Grid. Once both of these are complete, you will know whether to proceed using citizen development for your project or not! If your project is a good fit for citizen development, you can determine which Hyper-Agile CD Path to follow based on the risk/technical complexity of your project (Fast-Track, Assisted Path or IT Delivery). The table below summarizes my favourite aspects of the module and one way in which I think the lesson could be improved.
Module 3 - Ideation 2.0
The learning objectives of this module were outlined at the outset, you will have learned:
I thought this module was excellent in the Foundation Course. However, I would rate it even higher in the Practitioner Course. The learning objectives were easy to achieve during this module. Similar to Ideation 2.0 in the Foundation Course, the content in this module (mainly the methods and outputs) are structured in a logical way which made the content easily digestible. The addition of the “how to develop your squad” section was also very valuable.
Module 4 – Suitability Assessment
The learning objective of this module are outlined below. By the end of this module you will have learned:
One of my key takeaways from this module is that citizen development can transform your operations; when citizen development is a suitable fit. It is critical to remember that citizen development is not suitable for every project. I enjoyed this lesson and met the learning objectives. Some of my favorite aspects of the lesson and an item I personally think could be improved are outlined below.
Hyper-agility seeks to drive an agile culture further, beyond the walls of any one product team or project, embedding it into the organizational DNA. To do that, it is necessary to combine new ways of work and to redefine how we think about application development since all value streams depend heavily on software in every industry.
In this article, I will describe the PMI Citizen Development Canvas, a definitive map for organizations looking to adopt and scale citizen development. The PMI CD Canvas was developed to:
Clarity and Guidance
Digital transformation and citizen development have been around for a decade or so now. Despite of technology advancements, the full potential of citizen development has yet to be realized. The challenge is that the organizations are not structured in ways needed to adopt and scale citizen development.
To embrace low-code and no-code is a fundamental shift to a mindset focused on empowering users. However, to empower users we need a new software development life cycle that is flexible and based on agile principles. We also need a framework to help citizen developers safely and securely build better applications.
Figure 1 – PMI Citizen Development Canvas (PMI.org)
The PMI CD Canvas has five key areas: Project Delivery, Capability Development, Operating Model, Organizational Alignment, and Maturity Model.
Ideation 2.0 provides orientation to start new initiatives by exploring ideas and generating mockups and enabling rapid application development. The citizen developer will be guided to channel value from real-time feedback and engagement with stakeholders.
As a quick and simple example, imagine you wanted to build a website a decade (or more) ago. You would sit with a project manager or business analyst to define requirements and scope that would be translated into a schedule to ultimately deliver your website some time later to be tested. By the end of the project, making changes would be a huge effort.
Now, imagine doing the same now. You would sit with a product owner to develop and prioritize features and stories. An agile team works on the prioritized features and stories in sprints, and you would have a chance to review the results on regular intervals, which is way better than the waterfall approach. What if you could get results even faster? That´s Ideation 2.0, and hyper-agility.
Structures and Competencies
“I understand citizen development works, how can I scale it?” is a question I hear more and more frequently. People are adopting Design Thinking, hackathons, and all types of inception and prototyping experiences. It works fine. But it is confined to a few areas in the organization. Why? Because there is no governance, and the capabilities are not in place.
To succeed in adopting and scaling citizen development, your organization needs to:
(Check out my previous articles about “Citizen Development Skills for Life”, “Five Tips to QuickStart your Citizen Development Career” and “Why Go for a Citizen Developer Certification”)
I will explain these foundational elements below.
A New Approach to Enable Hyper-Agility
It is possible that a citizen development application may cause more harm than good, causing extra work or confusion instead of solving a problem. That´s why citizen development practitioners need tools to design and develop their applications within the context of the business and the entire organization.
Business Analysis & Design, a core element to the PMI CD Canvas, provides a process architecture model focused on the wider implications of change across a suite of processes and applications to evaluate value creation.
The PMI CD Canvas takes into consideration functional and nonfunctional requirements, including underlying technologies, architectural landscape, and potential future usage. These, and other aspects, are carefully taken care of during the Hyper-Agile SDLC (software development life cycle), according to application development guidelines around designing and building data models, user-friendly interfaces, governance, and security.
In future articles, I will explore the Citizen Development Operating Model, Organizational Alignment, and Maturity Model. As you know, few organizations have taken citizen development to its maximum potential. So, I would like to conclude this piece with two questions:
Please leave your thoughts and share your experiences related to hyper-agility and citizen development.