How to Lead Citizen Developers [Structured Framework]
Businesses today typically face non-stop challenges that demand rapid responses and out-of-box thinking. And they need numerous of applications to resolve these challenges.
IT and traditional developers can’t meet the rising demand for new apps, but citizen development can pick up the slack. These “developers” can take the lead on new application development to reduce IT backlogs.
But citizen development needs structure and support to succeed. And this takes leadership, governance, and IT collaboration.
That's where a citizen developer framework comes in handy. It's the best way to support citizen development, maximize business value and build maintainable solutions.
Structured Citizen Developer Framework 10 Steps
Citizen developers work best within a citizen development framework. They thrive with the tools, leadership, discipline, and support a framework provides.
Your organization benefits as well. Your framework helps protect data security, reduce costs, minimize duplication, and combat shadow IT.
Follow these 10 steps to build your structured framework and optimize citizen development.
1. Create a Democratic Development Culture
Citizen development democratizes technology and reorders software development culture within an organization. Application development is no longer just an IT responsibility.
Citizen development disperses development rights widely to include non-IT employees.
As a result, a new development culture is emerging outside IT. If executed effectively, it will reduce IT backlog, improve business agility, and enable more cohesive relationships between business and IT management.
It’s important to encourage a new culture of experimentation, agility, and innovation. And it's to your advantage to empower your citizen developers to push the envelope.
Ensure they are well-trained in using low-code/no-code tools. Provide them with adequate technical support. Get IT and leadership fully engaged.
2. Identify Citizen Developers in Your Organization
Building your developer team begins with identifying the best candidates within your organization. Look for employees with core traits like a deep understanding of business processes and a creative mindset.
Communication and collaboration play a big part in candidate identification and recruitment.
By getting the word out, you’ll capture the attention of innate problem-solvers. Many will jump at the opportunity to volunteer and take an active role in solving business problems.
Collaborate with department heads and HR. Request their guidance. They can help identify candidates with the right attributes and provide introductions.
3. Collect Ideas from Your Team
Many employees have ideas for improving the processes that affect their day-to-day jobs. Set up accessible communication channels, including regular meetings, Slack channels, and internal web forums.
Let your employees know those channels are open for them to suggest and discuss their suggestions and insights. Make it clear that all input is welcome. Underscore that the best ideas will make their way into new applications.
This is a great way to get a steady stream of high-quality ideas. Plus, you’ll identify some viable developer candidates in the process.
4. Establish Expectations, Timeframes, and Goals
A successful citizen development program doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to onboard developers, foster a new culture, and build a structured framework.
But setting the right expectations, timeframes, and goals is important. They help reinforce a budding citizen development culture, improve morale, and create KPI baselines.
Citizen development brings a lot of change quickly for most organizations. But establishing these guideposts keeps everyone on the same page and the project on track.
5. Choose the Best Code/No-Code Platform For Your Business
Not all low-code/no-code platforms have the same functionality, so selecting the right one for your business is critical. To narrow the field, follow a systematic approach to make the best choice for your business.
A tool set is not limited to low-code development. Still, it should also include workflow automation capabilities and business-ready integration connectors.
Start by detailing your requirements for functionality, security, integration, and automation capabilities. After, distill these into a list of key criteria and map them against each platform's capabilities to create a shortlist of finalists.
Run in-house pilots of each finalist, and be sure to involve essential stakeholders. Include both developers and IT staff to get their input. Finally, compile the results and feedback from your pilots and make your final choice.
6. Establish A Governance Framework: Center of Excellence (COE)
A Center of Excellence (COE) is a key component of a citizen development governance framework.
A COE is a centralized hub that consolidates resources, establishes standards, selects technologies, and enables control in one place. It keeps stakeholders and policies aligned and provides a focal point for citizen developers, IT, and leadership.
The COE is home to best practices, templates, and documentation to guide your developers. It hosts a secure development environment and application sandboxes. And it provides QA and testing, along with a repository of reusable code modules.
7. Train Your Citizen Developers
To be most effective, citizen developers need training in design and the use of low-code/no-code platforms. Training boosts productivity and helps protect against mistakes, security threats, and integration issues.
Developers that understand their platform's capabilities are more confident and innovative. And that leads to better apps.
Formal onboarding and basic training are necessary. Advanced training should also be available to enable developers to broaden their expertise as needed.
8. Encourage Collaboration Between IT Departments and Citizen Developers
IT departments can be antagonistic toward citizen developers and reluctant to collaborate. In fact, 87% of companies report friction between IT and citizen developers.
But successful citizen development depends on collaboration. Up to 45% of companies report collaboration benefits, even in the early stages of an initiative.
Remember: Citizen developers aren’t professional developers. They’re not here to replace your IT department. Instead, they should support your developers.
It is in the IT department's best interests to mentor and support their new development partners. As an example, Gartner reports lower IT authority among departments that refuse to collaborate.
The sooner IT helps developers get up to speed, the sooner they can take the lead on app development. And IT can shift their focus to other pressing priorities.
9. Acknowledge and Reward Successes
At first, your citizen developers may feel overwhelmed. Worse, IT could drag its feet on collaboration. As a result, citizen development can get off to a slow start.
But successful app launches can help overcome early program growing pains and help build momentum. Celebrating each new app breaks down collaborative barriers and boosts morale and confidence.
Acknowledging successful new apps and rewarding contributors builds camaraderie and accelerates progress. Skeptical employees get on board, and the citizen developer culture builds.
10. Establish Maintenance Processes
Tracking new apps produced through an active citizen developer program takes time and effort. Some will need maintenance or updates, while some will become obsolete.
IT should manage the process by keeping a master list of new apps and a copy of each in the COE. The COE should maintain each app's version control, specifications, and integration details. The COE is also responsible for QA and security, and functional testing.
A structured maintenance process goes a long way in ensuring that only current, high-quality applications are in use. And it provides an effective check on shadow IT, protects against security risks, and promotes monitoring and control.
Project Management and Citizen Development
At first glance, project management and citizen development may appear at cross purposes. But in practice, they often work well together and complement one another.
For one, many project managers and citizen developers share common characteristics and interests. Both are problem-solvers interested in building better business processes and end-user workflows.
Adding a citizen developer to a project management team enhances the team's capabilities and can help complete a project. Or a citizen developer can build a custom app to streamline a project and better align it with business needs.
How to Launch Citizen Development in Your Organization
While still evolving, citizen development makes a real difference in technology usage and control. For the first time, non-IT employees can build solutions themselves without coding skills or depending solely on IT.
At the same time, citizen developers need leadership, support, and structure to be most effective. Structured development frameworks incorporate these three attributes.
They are the most effective way to lead citizen developers to make them as successful as possible.