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Citizen Development Insights

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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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Cameron McGaughy
Ron Immink
Jody Temple White
Mario Trentim
Jelili Odunayo Kazeem
Jason Mayall
Chandrasekaran Audivaragan
Ryan Whitmore
Kimberly Whitby
Justin Sears
Derya Sousa
Vivek Goel
Raveesh Dewan
Dalibor Ninkovic
Ian Gosling
Tara Leparulo

Past Contributors:

Elizabeth Jordan
Arjun Jamnadass
Rogerio Sandim
Martin Kalliomaki
Richard Earley
Maelisa Woulfe
Octavio Arranz

Recent Posts

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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Empowering Project Professionals in Construction: The Benefits of Citizen Development

Construction and engineering project managers and professionals face many challenges in delivering projects on time, within budget, and to the highest standards of quality. With increasing pressure to streamline work processes and maximize efficiency, many are turning to citizen development as a solution. 

Citizen development, which involves using low-code / no-code platforms to develop custom software applications, can help construction and engineering project professionals achieve their goals more effectively and with greater ease.  

According to a Forrester report, there are several benefits to adopting modern process management platforms to the Construction and Engineering organizations. It empowers co-operation with internal and external collaborators, invites various types of stakeholders into critical business processes and serves remote workforces by eliminating reliance on paper-based tasks. (Forrester report, Optimize Cross Organizational Content and Process-Rich Apps for Construction and Engineering Firms, February 19, 2021). 

By empowering project professionals to take control of software development, citizen development can help them streamline their work processes, integrate data from multiple sources, and quickly respond to changing requirements. 

If you are a project professional in construction or engineering you may have some of these goals in your agenda:

  1. Delivering projects on time and within budget: Meeting project timelines and keeping costs under control may be key priorities for you like many others. 

  1. Ensuring high standards of quality: aiming to deliver projects that meet or exceed quality standards, ensuring that they are safe, durable, and functional. 

  1. Minimizing risk and ensuring compliance: managing risk throughout the project lifecycle, from design to construction and operation. This includes managing technical, financial, and regulatory risks. 

  1. Enhancing collaboration: Effective collaboration between all stakeholders, including designers, contractors, and owners, is essential to the success of construction and engineering projects. 

  1. Integrating new technology: aiming to embrace new technologies that can improve project delivery, such as Building Information Modelling (BIM) and advanced digital tools. 

  1. Improving sustainability: Sustainability is becoming an increasingly important consideration for construction and engineering professionals, who must find ways to minimize the environmental impact of their projects and improve energy efficiency. 

These goals are all interrelated and must be balanced to deliver successful construction and engineering projects. By focusing on these key priorities, you can help ensure the success of their projects and meet the needs of your stakeholders. 

Citizen development, can bring many benefits to you, including:  

  1. Improved efficiency: Citizen development can help streamline work processes, integrate data from multiple sources, leading to improved efficiency and productivity. 

  1. Better collaboration: Citizen development you to develop custom applications that meet your specific needs, improving collaboration and communication between team members. 

  1. Increased flexibility: With low-code platforms, you can quickly and easily develop new applications and make changes to existing ones, without having to rely on IT teams or outside developers. This increases their flexibility and responsiveness. 

  1. Lower costs: By streamlining work processes and improving efficiency, citizen development can help lower project costs and increase profitability. 

  1. Empowerment of project professionals: Citizen development empowers you to take control of software development, enabling them to create custom applications that meet your specific needs. 

  2. Faster innovation: Citizen development enables faster innovation, allowing you to quickly adopt new technologies and advanced digital tools.

    These are some of the many benefits construction and engineering project professionals experience from citizen development by maximizing efficiency and improving results.  

 

 

As a low code / no code technology provider in the market, one of the areas we have seen that project managers in construction are looking to streamline and ensure compliance is Environmental, Health and Safety tasks so that they can improve how this function is managed and identify incidents faster, spot patterns sooner, and avoid the risk of accidents recurring. 

This is why recently we launched a new product Kianda EHSwise for construction which enables you to quickly and easily deploy applications to improve environmental, health and safety management with industry specific platform capabilities.  

 

When evaluating industry specific technology solution is if the solutions will provide specialized features?

In a recent report, where Kianda was included, one of the critical factors Forrester recommends to considerer when evaluating industry specific technology solution is if the solutions will provide specialized capabilities.  

These specialized solutions often include critical capabilities that may not be in generic platforms. For example, solutions that must work in no- or low- bandwidth environments like construction and engineering, require robust offline capabilities. 

“Many solutions do not allow people to run operations while offline. They revert to paper to do it later in the office.” (Kianda, Forrester report, Low- Code Platforms Are Going Vertical, November 10, 2022)  

Offline capability allows you to submit all your EHS processes, perform inspections, record events and submit approvals in real-time and on the go weather you have connection or not. Helping construction and engineering project managers and professionals improve health and safety performance, automate key processes, and reduce the risk of human error.  

This is just one of many areas where Citizen Development empowered by low-code / no-code platforms can help construction and engineering to move beyond manual processes and leverage modern technologies to improve their operations and embrace digitalisation successfully. 

Posted by Derya Sousa on: February 06, 2023 12:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Citizen Development Part 3: Providing Light-Touch Governance

The previous article in this series covered the elements organizations should consider in order to get started with citizen development. In this article, I’ll be looking at a fundamental part of successful citizen development strategies: governance. 

 

The question is: how do organizations balance the need for visibility and security on one side, with a need to keep up with changing markets and speed up the delivery of digital products and services on the other? 

 

 

Business-led development without governance is shadow IT

With the demand for digital services continuing to skyrocket and experienced developers few and far between, the business side of many organizations has found itself backed into a corner. There are only so many times business-side employees can see their innovative new ideas for processes, products, and services go to the bottom of IT’s ever-growing backlog. 

 

 For some time now, this handicapping of the business side has driven employees to start building their own solutions – regardless of whether IT is on board or not. This is what’s known as shadow IT and it can take the form of spreadsheets, messaging apps, external drives, and more.  

 

The problem with shadow IT is that, by its very nature, it creates a multitude of risks to an organization. These risks can include the improper – and even illegal – use of data; widespread duplication of data; a lack of visibility; increased vulnerability to cyber-attacks; and more. 

 

How does citizen development solve the problem of shadow IT? 

When the challenge is that business employees will always find a way to build their own solutions regardless of IT’s involvement, the logical step is to provide them with a safe and governed way to do so. This is citizen development. 

 

By giving business-side employees access to low-code and no-code platforms, you’re giving them an effective tool to solve their problems whilst providing IT with a way to govern everything they build. 

 

Light-touch governance 

The key to citizen development is to empower a new breed of developer without unnecessary limitations. By providing light-touch governance, business-side employees are free to work within the sanctioned environment IT provides, and risk is minimized when it comes to the most essential parts. 

 

It’s all about layers. Think of it this way: any governance you provide is better than no governance at all, which is the reality for many organizations. With no-code and low-code platforms, IT can now set permissions and roles according to the level of risk. Governance should be reasonable, rather than restrictive. 

 

How will citizen developers fit into the broader IT space?

It’s important that citizen developers follow the existing workflows and protocols within the full scope of IT’s efforts. An example of this is ensuring data coherence and standards for data handling. 

 

A good starting point is to establish a master list of authorized data sources with a network of APIs to guide citizen developers and create a robust IT ecosystem. Establishing a clear plan for the data that citizen developers will work with, and how they work with it, creates alignment with the IT department and also serves to mitigate security risks.

 

When should citizen developers contribute to application delivery?

Organizations should also consider how to prioritize which applications will be built by citizen developers, and set guidelines as to the expectations for citizen developer output. For example, will departmental workflow applications or customer-facing apps take priority? How much of a citizen developer’s time should be allocated for application development and delivery, considering that it is probably not their primary role?

 

Accelerate innovation without losing control 

When it comes to governance, low-code and no-code platforms create a win-win for the business and IT. IT has a transparent overview of all of the business side’s software activities, and is able to ensure everything is safe and secure. At the same time, the business side now has a central tool with which citizen developers can build solutions continuously, thereby improving their knowledge and skills with every project. 

 

In other words, the risk to the organization decreases, and the speed of innovation increases. The business side can execute on its needs and ideas, and IT can focus on more than simply “keeping the lights on.” 

Posted by Ryan Whitmore on: July 12, 2021 09:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

How to Choose the Right Low-Code No-Code Software

Introduction

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.
 

Posted by Rogerio Sandim on: June 03, 2021 04:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

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

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)

How Citizen Development Empowered by Low-Code/No-Code is Going to Unleash Innovation

How Citizen Development Empowered by Low-Code/No-Code is Going to Unleash Innovation
 

We are at a time where technology is constantly evolving. Markets are increasingly becoming more competitive and the availability of skilled software developers appears almost non-existent. However, despite the drought in programmers, the demand to create or maintain business applications still stands and is stretching beyond organisational capabilities.

In fact, Forrester states that by 2024, there will be a total shortage of 500,000 software developers in the United States alone, (How to Harness Citizen Developers to Expand Your AD&D Capacity, Forrester Research, Inc., April 19, 2017).

Is this surprising to me? The answer to this, not really. Certainly, depending solely on traditional software development is not a stable strategy to address organisational demands, not to mention the high costs and long waiting times associated with it.

I believe we are at the beginning of a new era and that the way digital systems are created is changing forever. Technology has significantly evolved in recent years, so much so that even the most complex applications or critical systems can be changed easily without writing any code.

With this shift, we will increasingly see the democratisation of digitalisation that will enable people from different backgrounds to build those systems.

This is going to be the era that unleashes a stream of innovation not seen before.

Innovation

And this is where citizen development plays a key role.

So, for someone who is embarking on the citizen development journey, I can tell you that citizen development has one mission; to propel the rapid adoption of digital technologies which defines the main role of citizen developers.
 

Why is citizen development on the rise?

We are at a stage where many organisations quickly adopted new technologies during COVID to move their business forward. Low-code/no-code development platforms have been among those technologies that helped companies to quickly connect their people, processes and technologies.

Since this has been appealing to many and it has brought quick outcomes, reverting back to the old ways once COVID is over is not really an option. When used right, technology can play an integral part in improving user engagement, productivity, communications and more.

Citizen development allows organisations to address some of the main pain points of delivering technology such as long waiting times, overloading IT teams and expensive outsourcing.

According to Gartner, 61% of organisations either have or intend to implement citizen development. This move reflects the rising popularity that citizen development is receiving. But, why are leaders paying so much attention to it?

Citizen development is the answer and testament to an organisation’s desire to “deliver more with less resources”.

Its growing popularity comes down to driving productivity while allowing companies to save resources. On the plus side, it allows companies to stay competitive and combat the scarce availability of IT talent by empowering citizen developers to address their organisations digitalisation needs themselves.

Not only does citizen development alleviate the pressure on IT departments but it also speeds up software development life-cycles, offering business processes faster time to market. Additionally, organisations are receiving greater efficiencies by creating a space for non-technical employees to continuously innovate and drive digital transformation.

The prominently increasing adoption of citizen development is not surprising considering the benefits that can be attained.
 

Who is citizen development for?

Citizen development is for anyone within an organisation who is keen to teach themselves basics of low-code/no-code and become an expert in the field. It is for anyone who is willing to work in a fast-growing sector that will accelerate the way companies address the needs of both customers and employees.

The benefits of citizen development are compelling for obvious reasons. It is a great way for someone to skill-up in the long-term and take their part in shaping the technology.

The low-code/no-code movement continues to gain momentum and you can be part of it too.

However, it is important to execute any citizen development initiatives with some factors in mind. There are certain elements one should pay attention to, in order to successfully nurture a culture of citizen developers to generate the best outcomes.
 

4 Factors That Will Foster a Successful Culture of Citizen Development

1. Governing Shadow IT

Providing access to systems and tools to employees outside of IT certainly permits them to be innovative and reduce the pressure on IT departments. With that said, it shouldn’t mean that non-IT users should develop software on their own initiative without input from IT as this can cause an array of problems such as security risks, slow deployment and so on.

Instead, the standard procedures that already exist in an organisation when it comes to change management and deployment of new solutions, should as well apply to citizen development initiatives.

IT departments should create a controlled environment to prevent shadow IT from occurring. That way, IT can either oversee citizen development projects or actually collaborate with citizen developers to minimize risk and ensure security and control.
 

2. User-first approach

A user-first approach is one of the great ways to avoid shadow solutions in an organisation. Getting user feedback early and often, making sure to stay laser focussed on all type of users throughout the development of solutions is crucial for success.

To be able to deliver solutions with a user-centric approach, you need to choose the right tool that is flexible and allows you address your unique requirements.
 

3. Choosing your tool

Investing some time to choose the right tool from the beginning is really important. A tool should be chosen on the basis that it suits your individual requirements and the people who will be using it.

Low-code and no-code terms more or less sound similar. However, there are some differences. As the name suggests, low-code development platforms still require a certain level of coding and therefore, are more suitable for those who obtain a certain degree of knowledge in programming.

No-code development platforms don’t require any coding or require very little coding and essentially empower any innovator with or without technical knowledge to create applications.

In short, low-code empowers mostly IT departments to speed up software development in order to create applications at a faster pace. On the other hand, with no-code, both IT and non-IT professionals can build digital solutions which ultimately accelerates software development.

Choose a tool that can integrate with your existing systems, that is flexible, allows you to adapt and does not create limitations.
 

4. Training and supporting citizen developers

Preparation is key. Low-code/no-code tools primarily focus on user experience and are mostly easy-to-use. However, it is important to train and mentor citizen developers to adopt the standard toolset to facilitate their confidence, development of new skills and techniques and their accomplishments in developing applications.

Delivering valuable assistance and encouraging non-technical developers will help them to stimulate innovation, enjoy the experience and create powerful applications for the business.


What’s next for citizen development?

Traditional software development has been around for many decades and will be around for many more. Both no-code and custom coding will take their part in the implementation of future technologies. Companies will still need custom coding.

However, citizen development will grow with the goal of allowing rapid delivery of solutions that sit closer to end users. Over time, solutions that are built by citizen developers will make up the larger chunk of the solutions build within an organisation.


Adoption of citizen development initiatives has transformed how organisations respond to inefficiencies and has been driving digital transformation for many in the recent years.

More and more organisations will realise that promoting citizen development equates to governance, simultaneously prevents shadow IT and ultimately democratises digitalisation.

 

 

Posted by Derya Sousa on: April 14, 2021 07:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)
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