Digital Transformation With Citizen Development

The demand for software has skyrocketed across industries and global markets in the past few years, and along with it, the need for apps. Why? Because business software applications make communication easier, reduce time and effort, enhance functionality, and improve control, leading to increased organizational efficiency. They allow businesses to identify and respond to new opportunities.

More and more organizations are embracing digital transformation and changing the way they operate. But for digital technology to be integrated into all areas of a business, solutions must be built. Systems, processes, and workflows must change. This transformation puts a lot of pressure on IT, a department that’s already overwhelmed. Digital transformation can no longer be driven by IT, and that’s where citizen development comes in. With citizen development, companies can pursue their digital transformation initiatives without worrying about IT’s backlog.

Research by Forester shows that by 2024, the US will have a shortage of 500,000 software developers. An uncertain future and tighter budgets have also forced companies to adopt remote work, and these companies need good software for a smooth transition. With low-code/no-code platforms, citizen developers create business solutions with IT oversight.

Where To Start With Citizen Development

Many organizations adopt citizen development to leverage automation and streamline business processes. They empower employees in various departments to design, replicate, and release new apps and solutions with minimal oversight from IT. To get off on the right foot, here are some things to do:

  • Educate everyone involved in the citizen development program so that you are on the same page. Clarify the responsibilities, benefits, and expectations and get buy-in from senior management.

  • Bridge the knowledge gap by enrolling employees in citizen development courses online or a reskilling/upskilling program. The training covers the basics of business or document process automation, no-code bots, and citizen development tools.

  • Establish policies to guide the employees and IT staff involved. Set boundaries for your citizen developers. While it’s important to give citizen developers some autonomy, ensure they follow the correct processes.

  • Set up administration and governance tools to provide a nurturing, controlled environment for application development. This balances innovation with the right standards.

  • Be transparent by documenting everything and putting the data in a central, widely-accessible repository. Use a system that requires permissions to limit access to delicate data.

  • Get your IT team to create application templates with compliance and regulatory requirements. This automates most of the citizen development process and ensures everyone consistently follows best practices.

How Can a Non-Technical Person Develop Software?

Success in today’s world means operating at digital speed. It is about deploying innovative apps 10x faster. Forward-thinking organizations constantly refine processes and identify new ways to maintain competitive market advantage. Falling behind is not an option because your brand will stop being relevant very soon. Here is how non-IT employees can become citizen developers and help your organization:

1. Start Small

In collaboration with the IT team, citizen developers can help your organization address the growing need for applications. Companies that succeed at citizen development start small, test, iterate, and improve their program before scaling it to fit the entire organization.

When starting, consider scalability, but do not overcomplicate things. Begin by automating paper-based and spreadsheet-based processes. These help you demonstrate value and provide a foundation for scaling.

Based on the success of the pilot project, determines the changes you need to make to the applications you built previously. This improves your citizen development process. Share the results of your citizen development efforts with decision-makers and seek the support of the entire organization.

Gradually seek to change how employees think about software development. To further democratize app development, create a citizen development community and encourage people to share their knowledge. Explain to employees the value they gain from adopting citizen development. Be open about the benefits and challenges to increase usage over time.

2. Understand That Software Development and Coding Are Completely Different

Coding means writing a set of instructions that machines can understand and interpret. Software development is all about creating, delivering, and maintaining a product used by people. Citizen development is a business process that encourages non-IT employees to become software developers. They use IT-sanctioned low-code/no-code platforms to create business applications.

Low-code/no-code platforms are easy to use and allow organizations to harness the power of citizen developers and enhance collaboration between business users and IT. By 2024, 75% of large enterprises will use at least 4 low-code development tools for citizen development initiatives.

Low-code/no-code platforms allow citizen developers to create business solutions critical to digital transformation success. An organization can build apps rapidly and keep up with ever-changing consumer behavior and market demands.

It becomes easier to align app development with business goals and to optimize business processes to sustain growth. In this age of diminishing attention spans, a low-code platform can help you develop customer-facing apps speedily and make the difference between business failure and success. 73% of consumers want businesses that value their time, and building timely apps is one way you can show your customers you do.

3. Build on Processes People Are Already Familiar With

To keep costs low but still encourage creativity, begin with processes with which citizen developers are already familiar. Keep it simple. While most citizen developers are highly motivated and natural problem solvers, starting on familiar ground provides a stable foundation for them. It forces them to proactively seek opportunities to innovate and go the extra mile.

When you begin with what citizen developers are already familiar with, it becomes easier for them to use technology to improve their work and, by extension, the organization.

4. Find the Right Software or Tool

Citizen developers can build administrative, reporting, and analysis enterprise apps as mobile, web, and back-office applications. But to succeed at this, they need easy-to-use low-code/no-code platforms. They need platforms that allow them to continuously learn and become better. To choose the best platform for your citizen developers, look at these features:

  • Ease of use

  • The basic capabilities

  • The flexibility of the platform

  • The ease of building solutions for multiple devices

  • The capacity to build business applications with drag and drop editors

  • The ease of creating workflows and automating business processes

  • How the platform integrates with 3rd party systems

  • If it’s possible to extend functionalities with custom code

The Takeaway

One way to speed up your company’s digital transformation initiatives is by starting a citizen development program. It will increase efficiency and productivity, helping you to meet business needs quickly without disrupting other critical operations. Citizen developers love technology and enjoy learning about innovations. They are also experts in their fields. They can use their invaluable knowledge and insight to build powerful business solutions.


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