How to Approach Citizen Development and Governance with Apps and Automation

The excitement around no-code and low-code applications is growing in a world where companies need to react quickly to changes in their marketplaces with new apps and automation. Only approximately 0.5% of the world’s population knows how to code, making accessing programming talent in today’s age of digital transformation more difficult than ever. 

No-code and low-code solutions are the answer to expanding the number of people who can potentially make valuable changes to your business. Indeed, Gartner believes low-code/no-code platforms like the Microsoft Power Platform will account for more than 65% of application development by the time we reach 2024. 

No-code and low-code solutions allow almost anyone in your company to develop and implement apps to improve efficiency and productivity. In other words, they’re sparking the rise of the “citizen developer”. Here’s what you need to know about empowering and managing citizen development in your company. 

What is a Citizen Developer?

Citizen development refers to the creation of apps and automation by non-IT employees who see opportunities for digital transformation in their workflow. In the past, creating a technical solution to a problem with an app or workflow automation would require in-depth programming knowledge from an individual with years of experience. 

Now, no-code and low-code solutions mean citizen developers can create programs using intuitive visual interfaces and drag-and-drop technology. Around 96% of people who haven’t used no-code tools before say they’d be willing to use them in the future. 

Citizen developers are particularly crucial today because companies are dealing with a rapid demand for innovation. According to one survey, around 71% of business leaders say their IT teams have pipelines of new tech solution requests currently being ignored due to a lack of access to specialists or issues with budget. 

What’s more, employees, like consumers use technology every day to complete projects and improve efficiencies. When they get to work, they expect to be able to leverage technology in a way that supports and empowers them (wherever they are). Giving everyone in your team the freedom to take advantage of technology and build new workflows means everyone can play a part in the digital transformation of the business. 

How to Operationalise Citizen Development

When employees feel they can’t manage their work lives as easily as their personal lives, they start to become frustrated. There’s plenty of evidence among brands of creative non-IT employees using their own webhooks, macros, and external technology to make their daily work easier – often without the involvement of IT. Unfortunately, this unapproved form of citizen development puts companies at risk of “Shadow IT”, and disconnected data ecosystems.

While Citizen developers have a lot of value to offer the modern workforce, they need the right structure and support in place to avoid creating security issues for business leaders. Fortunately, modern citizen development platforms like Power Platform from Microsoft allow employees to become “official” citizen developers in the business. 

These environments give companies a place where they can monitor the creation of applications and manage the introduction of automation with pre-approved technologies. 

To operationalise citizen development today, companies need:

  • Guidelines and policies: Start by providing your team with guidelines and rules they need to follow when they want to get involved with developing their own apps and automation. This includes assigning a specific development platform to your employees that they can use for all of their creations. 
  • Communicating: Creating an open line of communication about the development of new apps and tools will help to improve the transparency in the business about any new innovations being added to the workflow. Communication also ensures business leaders become aware of any significant problems which require more complex programming and application development processes to fix. 
  • Creativity: Empowering citizen developers in your team to thrive means providing them with the tools they need to experiment with apps. Allow users to start small with templates and pre-existing tools in Microsoft Power Platform, then work with the most innovative of your staff to ideate and introduce new tools.

    What to watch out for

As mentioned above, enabling citizen development in your business can be a powerful step for any company investing in digital transformation. When everyone on your team has the power to innovate and create, you’ll find that your workflows become more efficient and convenient in no time. 

However, in a world where anyone can create dozens of apps with virtually no knowledge, it’s also easy for things to get out of hand. Companies need to make sure they’re keeping track of the development practices of their teams. 

The first step is making sure your employees are using the right applications for citizen development. If your staff have already gotten to a point where they’re using shadow IT ecosystems to build apps and automation, you may need to provide additional training and guidance to help them convert their existing tools into approved applications. 

It’s also worth making sure you carefully communicate your vision for citizen development and digital transformation to all employees -including your IT professionals. Engage IT from the beginning and get their help in defining clear roles for employees who can help to enable and support citizen developers. 

As you begin to implement your strategy, keep a close eye out for:

  • Strategy: Are citizen developers deploying too many apps at once, leading to complicated workflows and confusion among your teams? Do you need to reel certain team members in?
  • Licensing: Are you experiencing higher than usual licensing costs because of the ways your citizen developers are building solutions? How can you rectify this issue?
  • Security and data leakage: Could there be any areas in your low code application where employees gain access to information they don’t need, putting data security at risk?

Like any major change to business processes, implementing a strategy for citizen development requires careful planning and implementation. However, with the right tools, the correct strategy, and a solid vision, you’ll be on your way to a brighter future of apps and automation. 

If you'd like to discuss how to successfully implement a citizen development strategy in more detail, please don't hesitate to get in touch.

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