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 are being superimposed. Before we speak about how to implement and govern citizen development, thus, we would like to clear the air.
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.
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 for the same. That is also quite difficult and expensive.
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 take matters into their own hands responsibly. 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.
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 need to be enforced in every organization that has embraced citizen development.
Implementation can begin with the following check points –
Also read: The Pros and Cons of Citizen Development
We have to face the harsh truth – without governance, citizen development will get messy. Introducing a no-code platform without rules in place will lead to additional burden instead of easing the existing burden. However, if traditional governance rules are applied, it will reduce the value of these platforms and the process itself. 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
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.
Now that everything is in place, let us shift our attention to 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.
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 the 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:
Organizations also need to keep it simple when it comes to the 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 role of the employee in question. After understanding and analyzing the task assigned to the citizen developer, they can be given access to the features that they need, 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, which eliminates risks and bottlenecks from the system.
Citizen development also has the power to bring the business and IT departments together. For this initiative to succeed, there have to be clear lines of communication between the users and IT departments. The business leaders need to be supportive, and the IT department needs to establish usage policies for the users. This can lead to an effective partnership which can prevent shadow IT.
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 giving the users the freedom to build applications to meet their requirements.
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