Govern Citizen Development
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Citizen development has suddenly become a common term, with many individuals and companies throwing it around in casual speech. This has led to a fair amount of confusion and misconception. In fact, in many instances, shadow IT, and citizen development is being superimposed. Before we speak about how to implement and govern citizen development, thus, we would like to clear the air.

What is citizen development?

And, who is a citizen developer?

When a non-developer builds apps, he is referred to as a citizen developer and the process is called citizen development. But doesn’t shadow IT means the same? Well, there’s a crucial difference. Shadow IT happens without the knowledge or consent of the IT department. A citizen developer, on the other hand, uses tools that the IT department recommends. Any business user who use no-code low-code tools to create apps is a citizen developer. Can you become a citizen developer? 

The role of citizen developers in the organization

Govern citizen development

The pressure on IT is immense today. Never before were they stressed to such an extent to churn quick, reliable, and integrated applications. And, the work does not stop even after development. Users need IT support for updates and maintenance. This is why the role of citizen developers has become important. They use simple no-code platforms to develop apps that are flexible and easy to use. Any updates or edits are also done without the requirement of IT expertise.


Let’s talk about this with a few instances which are quite common in the workplace today.

Citizen development can be implemented, for example, in circumstances where homegrown applications are not viable. Most organizations need quick answers for problems such as crisis response. Managing new requests, tracking remote workers, ensuring all assets are secure, etc. is time-consuming. For these strategic solutions, the dependency is usually on the IT department and SaaS solutions. This directly translates to risks and costs. Time is another factor. If an organization starts building its own applications to tackle this problem, it needs a dedicated IT team. That is also quite difficult and expensive.

citizen development

This is why, during difficult times, different departments are left to fend for themselves, depending on manual processes and spreadsheets to get things done. Implementing citizen development will take this pain away and empower the workforce to responsibly take matters into their own hands. Citizen development using a no-code/low-code platform helps companies work faster and smartly. At this point, IT only needs to provide the required resources. The workforce takes care of the rest. Along with ensuring that there are fewer bottlenecks, the citizen development culture empowers the workforce and improves their efficiency. They also feel valued and bring innovation to the table. These are the pillars that organizations thrive on.

Also Read: The Top No-Code Podcasts for Citizen Developers!

Why do you need to govern citizen development?

While citizen development feels like a brilliant idea, there are risks involved. The biggest risk is that it may create shadow IT, vulnerability, unsupported software, and lack of control without proper governance. This is why the guidelines must be enforced in every organization embracing citizen development.

Implementation can begin with the following checkpoints –

  1. The governance strategy should cover key details such as who is a part of the citizen development program, how it will be carried out, what the rules are, etc.
  2. There must be a centralized governance center in the IT department to oversee citizen development, monitor, and sanction the required resources.
  3. All citizen developers must be trained in data security, continuous development, and skill-building.
  4. Security compliances must strictly be in place.

Also read: The Pros and Cons of Citizen Development

How to govern citizen development?

We have to face the harsh truth – citizen development will get messy without governance. Introducing a no-code platform without rules in place will lead to additional burdens instead of easing the existing burden. However, if traditional governance rules are applied, they will reduce the value of these platforms and the process. The need here is to develop new governance strategies specific to no-code and low-code platforms.

Here are 5 key points to remember while doing so – who, how, which, when, and where

  1. Who will build apps on the new and easy platform?
  2. How will apps be built here?
  3. Which apps can citizen developers build on the low-code/no-code platform?
  4. When can they do so?
  5. Where will the apps be built?

Answering these questions with as much detail as possible will clarify roles and create responsibility. The risk of shadow IT and vulnerability of security will also be minimized.

IMPORTANT – While implementing policies is required, they cannot be stringent. For them to work in a citizen development culture, policies must be dynamic so that the governance evolves with the need.

Managing no-code/low-code citizen development should not be a tricky task. IT leaders can incorporate proper strategies to ensure successful implementation but should also consider the possibility of Shadow TI. And to mitigate the risks associated with shadow IT, companies should have a central IT governance model in place.

IT leaders can also build a center of excellence team to help it with tasks like selecting the best no-code platform, articulating user roles and responsibilities, and could help in assessing the impact of using a no-code platform. IT leaders should also:

  • Implement Kanban models to ensure effective collaboration between cross-functional teams.
  • Keep exploring the scope of citizen development in their processes.
  • Reviewing the impact of no-code development will help IT leaders, to determine the ROI and ensure the flexible rollout of the same.

Also watch:

Source: Forrester

Helping citizen developers get started

Now that everything is in place, let us focus on the citizen developers themselves. Identifying the best candidates from your existing employees can give you a head start on a successful citizen development initiative. Every employee has their own strengths and weaknesses and it’s important to identify which employees are genuinely interested and want to learn how to build their own applications. These employees need to understand data, should want to build solutions of their own, and have basic technical knowledge.

1. Train the users

We must also ensure that they are comfortable and are trained appropriately. Developers need to have a deeper knowledge of agile environments, information security, innovation programs, etc. to be able to develop applications accordingly. The citizen developers also need to know why the development tool is being introduced, as well as how to use the tool. This is why training should be a part of governance. Comprehensive and customized training can prevent users from abandoning the software due to a lack of guidance and can help them create applications tailored for their unique needs.

To begin with, organizations can do the following:

  • Help them with the planning process before they start building applications
  • Avoid siloes through a review process, especially in the beginning
  • Help them integrate with SaaS and enterprise solutions through best practices
  • Educate them about version control, management practices, application testing, etc.

2. Control access

Organizations also need to keep it simple regarding user access and tools available for the citizen developers. Excessive user access can lead to citizen developers exploring areas within the development platform that they don’t understand or know how to use. This may lead to security risks in the future, mainly insider threats, due to excessive privileges and access.

Also, allowing citizen developers access to the full range of tools can become counterproductive as they might get overwhelmed and confused. User access and tool selection should be determined by the employee’s role in question. After understanding and analyzing the task assigned to the citizen developer, they can access the needed features, leading to a streamlined and confusion-free process.

Citizen development drives digital transformation and helps the entire organization come together as one unit. Citizen developers directly get involved in the development process and feel empowered because they are now decision-makers. This also makes them feel valued. Organizations can make the most out of this thoroughly as they govern citizen development, eliminating risks and bottlenecks from the system.

3. Create an effective partnership between business and IT

Citizen development also has the power to bring the business and IT departments together. For this initiative to succeed, there must be clear communication lines between the users and IT departments. The business leaders must be supportive, and the IT department must establish user usage policies. This can lead to an effective partnership which can prevent shadow IT.

4. Monitor usage

The IT department also needs to monitor the usage of the development platform. Keeping an eye on the data, user access, and newly-built applications can prevent security issues in the future. The security options in the development platform tool are extremely important for ensuring that your data remains secure while allowing users to build applications to meet their requirements.

Also read: 5 Reasons to Encourage Citizen Development at Work

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