Citizen Development
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Looking for a way to tackle your IT backlog and find new and innovative solutions to application development problems? Citizen Development might be the answer. With Gartner saying that by 2023, the number of citizen developers maybe 4 times that of professional developers, companies may be looking to get a head start on this initiative. Citizen development is a new and exciting form of application development that allows anyone, regardless of their technical background, to get a chance to create the applications or forms that they need. This can be used in a variety of industries and departments, along with prompting increased productivity and efficiency.

Before you start your citizen development initiative, there are a few questions that you need to answer first. In this blog, we’ll be explaining why these questions are important and how they can help you launch a successful citizen development initiative.

Understanding citizen development with questions for your organization

1. Who can become citizen developers?

Citizen development is the process of non-technical employees building applications without knowing how to code, using no-code and low-code platforms. Any interested employee with an interest in learning and a knack for technology can become a citizen developer with some training. Employees who are power users or business developers already have an upper hand and can be recruited for this initiative easily.

It’s important for your organization to be clear regarding the roles and responsibilities associated with becoming a citizen developer, along with providing access to the appropriate tools. Figuring out who can become a citizen developer within your organization can also help you get an idea of the total scale and scope of this initiative.

2. How many potential citizen developers do you have in the company?

You may be able to find employees that can become citizen developers across departments and disciplines within your organization. Creating a list of candidates and understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each can help you create teams and decide which responsibilities can be distributed.

Asking this question is important as you can accurately predict the scope and scale of the initiative and plan ahead depending on the number of citizen developers.

Also read: The Rise of the Citizen Developer and why should every business care?

3. How will the citizen developers be creating apps?

Your organization will also have to choose between a variety of methods and platforms for actually creating the applications. Ideally, an organization should have a unified platform on which all of the citizen developers can work and collaborate. This platform should be capable enough to deter employees from using any other unauthorized software to create applications, which can lead to shadow IT. Ensure that your platform can meet all of your citizen developer’s needs so that you can avoid any unpleasant surprises in the future!

You also need to outline and finalize the processes that will be followed by these employees. Without a clear method of working, the citizen developers may flounder instead of thriving. The citizen developers should also be trained and informed about the regular methods and processes followed by the application development and delivery teams. Adopting similar processes can ensure that these departments are aligned and can ensure a more streamlined way of working.

4. How will you decide which no-code/low-code platform to go with?

There are many questions that need to be answered within the organization before settling on a certain no-code/low-code platform. Here’s a list that can help you! There are a wide variety of apps and platforms on the market, so make sure to create a checklist of the features and integrations that you need before going platform hunting.  Sometimes, ready-to-use products in the market might not meet your requirements, so you might need to create a unique platform according to your specifications.

Make sure to put a lot of thought into this decision, as it can dictate how the rest of this initiative goes. If you choose a suitable platform, your citizen development initiative may become extremely successful. However, if you rush and choose an unfit platform, it can result in a failed initiative and losses in both time and money for the organization. Choose wisely and start off your citizen development program on the right note.

5. Which apps will the citizen developers be able to build?

There are a wide variety of projects that need to be handled in the IT department, and it’s important to define what can and can’t be handled by the citizen developers. Due to the different skill levels of each type of developer, it can be beneficial to assign projects depending on the overall complexity.

Citizen developers aren’t formally trained in application development, which can pose a problem for tackling complex applications. Meanwhile, the professional developers know a lot about application development but need to handle repetitive, everyday projects which take up time. They may also be creating Business-to-Employee (B2E) applications, which doesn’t pose a challenge and can be done by creating templates to follow.

A good compromise can be allowing the professional developers to work on mission-critical projects with a lot of technological complexity which can pose a challenge and keep them engaged with their work. Meanwhile, the citizen developers can tackle general projects that are low in complexity but great for learning more about application development. The citizen developers may also have different ideas for solving a problem, which can lead to innovative and unique solutions.

You can divide up your projects according to a system that works best for you, but this framework for the delegation of application development projects is important to ensure that this initiative goes smoothly.

6. Which applications and tasks will get priority with the citizen developers?

You’ll also have to decide which apps will be a top priority for your citizen developers. There are different types of apps that need to be created and you need to decide whether the internal or customer-facing apps will be prioritized. Also, the citizen developers will probably have other tasks and responsibilities for their other roles in the company, so you need to define which tasks should be prioritized by them.

Answering these questions will provide your citizen developers with a clear idea of what is expected of them and what their roles and responsibilities will be moving forward in this new role.

7. How much IT backlog do you have?

Often, businesses have to pivot and respond to changes in the environment immediately, and long development times can seriously hinder this process. This can result in business leaders taking action in the form of buying or procuring tools that can help improve efficiency within their own jobs. They may also try to creatively use pre-existing tools to become more efficient.

The long development times are often a consequence of having accumulated a lot of IT backlog, resulting in a lack of professional developers to tackle all of the projects. This IT backlog can prompt business users to look for their own solutions if the IT department cannot provide them with one within the timeframe that they need. Organizations have started using citizen development to accelerate digital innovation/transformation and increase responsiveness to the business.

The scale and responsibilities of your citizen developers will depend on the total amount of IT backlog within the IT department. As the citizen developers don’t have formal training when it comes to coding and application development, they may be able to help with smaller projects that are required for improving workflows or project management. Lessening this IT backlog burden can help increase the IT department’s focus on business-critical transformative projects, leading to digital innovation and change throughout the organization in the long run.

Also read: 15 Questions CIOs Must Ask Low-Code No-Code Vendors

8. Are your business and IT teams aligned?

Within an organization, there are often common goals and deadlines that need to be met to ensure that a project goes successfully. This can only happen when the IT departments and business teams are aligned regarding these goals. The sole responsibility for making decisions regarding technology in the organization no longer rests with the IT department, which means that they need to be vigilant when others are making decisions about technology. With a clear focus on the end goal, the business and IT teams can work together to create the functionalities that are needed.

To facilitate this collaboration, many organizations are turning to low-code/no-code platforms to bridge the gap. When citizen developers are allowed to build applications in an IT-governed secure platform, these applications can help fulfill the needs of the business teams while using the technical know-how of the IT department. If your business leaders and IT department are aligned towards a unified goal or vision, your citizen development initiative will have a much smoother transition.

9. Do you have a strategy for combatting shadow IT?

Shadow IT is the use or purchase of any software without the IT department knowing. This can become a huge problem for companies that are trying to implement a citizen development initiative. If each person starts assuming that they know best and uses their own chosen app, the IT department will be hard-pressed to have an accurate estimate of how many apps are in current use and how many are redundant. This can lead to various cybersecurity concerns and potential data breaches depending on the information that is being transmitted using these new unknown apps.

Forming a strategy for dealing with shadow IT is imperative as it can prevent security disasters in the future. One of the best strategies to avoid this is to allow the citizen developers to build applications on a secure platform that is owned and governed by the IT department. This ensures that there is a closed environment that the citizen developers can experiment in, and the IT department can easily keep an eye out for any possible problems in the applications being built. There are multiple ways to combat this issue and it’s particularly important to have asked and answered this question before going ahead with your citizen development endeavor.

Also read: The Pros and Cons of Citizen Development

10. How will you govern your citizen development initiative?

You will need to develop a framework for governing the citizen development initiative. Leaving it all in the hands of the IT department could lead to it simply becoming another burden. So, it’s important for the business leaders and IT professionals to work together to build a robust framework that can ensure the security of the data of the organization and catch any possible mishaps.

The citizen developers also need to be made aware of this framework and what it entails to ensure that they’re on board with the idea. They’ll be the ones operating in this environment so it’s important to take their opinions into account as well to an extent.

Here are a few tips on how to answer this important question.

11. Where will your citizen developers be stationed?

Citizen developers can come from a variety of backgrounds, across your organization. Each of these individuals will have their own domain knowledge from their current departments, making them a great asset for applications that need to be created within that department. There may also be differences in the skill levels and capabilities of the employees, which will require an analysis of their overall growth as a citizen developer. However, each organization and company may handle this differently.

This question is essential to deciding the structure and organization of your citizen development initiative. This can depend on the total amount of IT backlog and the types of projects that will be tackled by them. If they are going to be tackling more difficult applications, it may be better to have them operating within the same business unit as your professional developers. However, if the project revolves around their previous domain, it’s better to have them keep working closely with their own team. Sometimes, it may be better if a new department or capability is created to ensure that the citizen developers can work closely with other people with similar interests and ambitions.

Summary

Understanding and answering these questions can help you get more clarity on how your citizen development initiative will run in the future. You will be able to give your citizen developers more structure and a safe space for them to experiment with their newfound application development skills. It’s also important to choose the correct no-code/low-code platform for your requirements.

Quixy is a no-code platform that enables citizen developers to create the applications they need without writing a single line of code. With an easy-to-use interface and a drag-and-drop designer, your employees will be building applications in no time. Check out our free trial here!

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